Juan de Marcos; Afro Cuban All Stars

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COMPOSERS: Juan de Marcos; Afro Cuban All Stars
ALBUM TITLE: Step Forward
WORKS: Step Forward
PERFORMER: Afro Cuban All Stars
Juan de Marcos González is the Cuban band leader who helped put together the Buena Vista Social Club, many of whom were then playing with his Afro-Cuban All Stars. Step Forward, the third disc of this big band of ever-changing musicians, launches de Marcos’ own DM Ahora! label. His passion for tradition (he founded retro Cuban ‘son’ group Sierra Maestra) is matched by a keen ear for the contemporary Havana scene, 50 of whose musicians are involved here from awesome young jazz pianist David Alfaro to singers Tirso Duarte, Leo Vera and José Luís Arango. While the dynamic blend of old and new sounds is undoubtedly eclectic, the album flows well, achieving an impressive balance between often dense orchestral colour and improvised virtuoso solos. From the up-beat timba-guaguancó ‘Adivinador’ to the sultry danzón-influenced ‘Glicy’s Mood’, when flute and vibe solo over pattering percussion, this is world music party style from top class musicians. Jan Fairley