03/05/13 - Ct Post - Famed Cuban band makes a stop in Connecticut
It never surprises Juan De Marcos Gonzalez when audiences who don't
speak a word of Spanish -- and have no connection with his Cuban culture --
find it impossible not to get up and dance at one of his shows.
"It's the rhythm. The rhythm is happy ... it's in the blood," the musician
and band leader said in a phone interview last week about the direct
emotional line from his music to a listener.
Gonzalaez's band, the Afro-Cuban All-Stars, plays many different genres of
music from his homeland -- with infusions of jazz and hip-hop from around
the globe -- but no matter what they perform, the group always stirs an
audience to move.
"People get in touch with the music right away, wherever we are," he said,
noting the band had just done a gig at the San Francisco Jazz Hall that had
the cool jazz aficianados on their feet in no time.
Gonzalez and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars will be playing the Palace Theater
in Waterbury on Sunday, March 10, just before their extended gig at the
Blue Note in Manhattan.
Gonzalez was one of the younger musicians behind the now legendary Buena
Vista Social Club, the band made up of senior Cuban players who sold 12
million albums in the wake of a very popular 1999 film about their
After the dust settled on that project, he created a new younger band to
play on three albums mixing Cuban beats with African music.
"There was no way to keep alive the people of the third age. They're all
gone," Gonzalez said of the elderly musicians from the Buena Vista group.
Since Gonzalez formed the Afro-Cuban All-Stars, the band has spun off many
international solo stars, including Ibrahim Ferrer and Guillermo
The band has been nominated for four Grammy Awards.
"So far we've had 10 different line-ups. This one is smaller -- only 16
musicians," he said, adding that the age range is from the 30s to the late
60s (he's 59).
The band's repertoire on this tour will run a gamut of many different
periods of Cuban music, including "very traditional stuff, cha-cha, mambo."
Of course, the audience will get a taste of contemporary Cuban sounds, too,
including La Timba (a mix of Cuban music, salsa and American pop forms).
The band leader is the son of a musician and his daughters play, too.
"Music is absolutely genetic," he said. "Everything is in the blood.
Sometimes (it takes the form of) becoming a producer or media work.
"But we Cubans historically have music in our blood, with Spain being a
very musical culture and then the African (influence). Everyone in Cuba is
a musician -- even the plumbers," he said, laughing.
When he was growing up, Gonzalez's first love was American rock, despite
the fact that the records couldn't be bought in Cuba.
"Cuba was a closed country for many years. But we would listen to music
from great (radio) stations in Florida," Gonzalez said, adding that he
loved everything from Steely Dan to the Rolling Stones.
When he got to college, Gonzalez formed a band that played Cuban music, but
with a young man's edge and musicians dressed in punk clothes.
"It was a very special period," he said of eventually helping to spotlight
Cuban music globally via the Buena Vista Social Club.
"We tried to bring to the world the spirit and diversity of Cuban music.
I'm proud that I gave those guys a chance to go back to their old days, and
they died happy," he said.
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The Palace Theater, 100 E.t Main St., Waterbury. Sunday, March 10, 7:30
p.m. $45-$35. 203-346-2000, www.palacetheaterct.org.
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