Frank Emilio Flynn is one of the most revered and cherished musicians in the history of Cuban music. His career lasted more than six decades. He was present during every major shift in Cuban music in the 20th century. He died at the age of 80 in 2001. Danzas y Danzones Cubanos was recorded in 1959 for the Sonotone label. The label, run by Manuel Mato, documented many of the most important Cuban musicians. Its catalog, administered by Sound Triangle, is highly sought after by collectors and aficionados of Cuban music. In 1959, this set was actually sanctioned by the Cuban government. It was meant to be preserved as a historical document in the Cuban History Museum. It is now a part of the Musica Original de Cuba series on the Empire Records label distributed by Universal. This set is a new, officially licensed issue of the material that appeared on the Ans label in 1998 and quickly disappeared. As for the music, it's simply astonishing. Flynn was a pianist's pianit. He was classically trained and brought the music from the classical tradition into Cuban jam sessions in the 1930s, the fantastic orquesta tipicas in the '50s, and of course to his passio, the Cuban jazz of the 1960s. From "Anita," the first track, Flynn begins a journey, through the various classical dance styles like waltzes, minuets, polkas, mazurkas, and so on. All of these had been brought to Cuba by the French at the beginning of the 19th century. They were quickly transformed, however, by Creole and then Afro-Cuban influence. Flynn's road wraps itself around the historical tradition and continues evolving, introducing new rhythms and accents to these styles beginning with "El Canon." By the time the album reaches its tenth cut, the glorious "Tres Lindas Cubanas" (the longest cut here, at just over six minutes), percussion has been brought into the music and Flynn is laying out the foundations for rumba inside a minuet! The skewed rhythmic structure in "Virgen de Regala" transforms classical music and makes it entirely Cuban, not so much burying its influence, but by thoroughly incorporating it into a new folk form created from song as well as dance. "La Belleza" becomes a serious cha cha and the more strident accents on the back beats is unmistakable. This is the European tradition turned inside out. Danzas y Danzones Cubanos is a delight from start to finish; it's a classic for the manner in which it bridges history, to be sure, but more importantly as music to be heard and enjoyed. It's truly wonderful that Empire has brought this treasure back on CD.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek