As musical director of the highly visible Cubanismo, Nachito Herrera unleashed Cuba’s formidable musicians before the public with a ferocity and zest unmatched in any current musical offerings. It comes as no surprise that Herrera has assembled the same raw spirit and hot talent coming, not only from Cuba, but from far off and unlikely places as Scandinavia and Jerusalem. Puro Cubano is his latest unit recorded on two scorching nights over two years ago at the Dakota Bar & Grill where he gave the audiences of St. Paul Minnesota a rare onslaught of his unwavering showmanship and craft.
Puro Cubano are Nachito Herrera on piano, LeAnn Lindgren on alto and soprano saxophone, Jorge Bringas on bass and Shai Hayo on percussion. Together this four-piece unit, which sounds like a much larger ensemble, introduces with Rumba Africana
a studio recorded piece that opens with a foreboding saxophone before Herrera takes command with tender strokes on the keyboard and setting the CD’s stride with typical and long peaks at his keyboard wizardry. Con Sentimiento Cubano
, the other studio recorded piece, begins with a lush romantic statement from Herrera who reveals that he is not shy about his expressive prowess in using all 88 keys before weaving the band with melodic twists and turns in the evening’s longest piece.A Puerto Padre
and the rest of the tracks are live features. This lively intro (or taken as such) is a piano feature which Herrera executes with the skillful touch of a surgeon’s hand as he quietly enters with a cute quote from Johann Sebastian Bach before demonstrating his bold maneuvers. Before long, his piano solo builds in a circular kind of intensity under the scintillating rhythm, where Herrera, in a controlled frenzy, pounds and pumps the keys for every ounce of musical juice before returning to the theme. Similarly, Herrera and band raises the mercury with long solos that stretches the boundaries of ingenuity as he does on De Artemisa Para Nuevo York
Before the provincial Cha-Cha-Cha
, Herrera launches the bebop classic A Night in Tunisia
, by Dizzy Gillespie, opening (takes it alone) over several measures with a rancorous facility and typical aplomb. Como Fue
comes as a treat and welcome respite with warmly romantic vocals by Lindgren who also doubles beautifully on flute.
A Tribute to Lecuona
comes in homage to Ernesto Lecuona Cuba’s multifarious composers of 400-plus compositions, operettas and orchestral works. In characteristic stride, Herrera begins with an incisive piano statement followed by Lindgren’s alto before breaking into a kind of cathartic polka-like swirls in this composer’s medley of hits Malaguena
and Ante El Escorial
Rodgers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine
, lifted out of obscurity in the '52 recording by Chet Baker, is given its due by a sonorously rhapsodic treatment by Herrera who closes out this CD with a wish-you-were-there live performance that’ll put a lot of spice on your pallet.