Cuban Classics: A Personal Selection Pt. 1

With Fidel’s passing I wanted to play some Cuban music I really love. This is a personal selection, and if you’re wondering why there’s no Buena Vista Social Club, Cachao, or Gloria Estefan, we’ll have a sequel next week with more sizzling Cuban music.

We start with a Coca-Cola commercial from 1952. The beverage giant was a player on Cuban soil back then, and it sponsored the live radio concert of the great Tito Gomez and his Orquesta Riverside, one of the great combos of the day. Areito is the state record label monopoly in Cuba, just as Melodya was the Soviet one. The Estrellas de Areito–the Stars of Arieto–are named off one by one. It’s a who’s who of Cuban musicians: pianist Rubén Gonzalez,  trumpeters Chappotin and “Chocolate” Armenteros,  très virtuoso Nino Rivera, conga player Tata Guines, and violinist Enrique Jorrín are just part of this all-star band.

Next is the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, the most famous Cuban musical artist ever. We hear a song from her early career, when she was working with the fabulous La Sonora Matancera group. It is son music at its best. Benny Moré is next, with an anthemic mambo dance number, “Que Bueno Baila Usted” (How Well You Dance). You can just see great dancers like Cuban Pete wowing the crowd at the famous New York mambo mecca, The Palladium.

Bandleader Machito brought his Cuban orchestra to New York in the early 1940’s, attracting young beboppers like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.  They recorded with him and with Chico O’Farrill’s mambo band, and called the new hybrid “Cubop”. José Fajardo plays the little five-key ebony (or grenadilla) wood flauta Cubana. I love this mambo classic, with its big beat and great flute phrasing.

We then sample two unique singers, the incendiary La Lupe, and the inimitable Rolando Laserie doing “El Manicero” (The Peanut Vendor), a song that came out in the 1920’s and went viral all around the world.

We wrap it up with two instrumentals, first from pianist Frank Emilio Flynn, then Cuban flute maestro Orlando “Maraca” Valle playing with a chamber ensemble using their basses and cellos as percussion instruments. Only in Cuba.

By the way, here’s a live set with the late Emilio Flynn at KCRW from back in 2001.

Hope you enjoy this great music.  More next week!

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 12/2/16: 

  1. Tito Gómez / “Presentación”; “Despierta Emilia” / Tito Gómez En Vivo/ DiscMedi S.A.
  2. Estrellas De Areito / “Estrellas De Areito” / Estrellas De Areito/ Egrem Music Cuba
  3. Celia Cruz / “Vamos A Guarachar” / Cuba’s Queen of Rhythm/ Palladium/Fania
  4. Benny Moré / “Que Bueno Baila Usted” / Orquestras Cubanas De Los Anos 50 / Egrem
  5. Machito / “Tanga” / El Padrino/ Fania
  6. Jose Fajardo / “Kikiriki” / Al Compas De Fajardo/ Panart
  7. La Lupe / “Fever” / Greatest Hits/ Fania
  8. Rolando Laserie / “El Manisero” / Rolando Laserie/ Discos Fuentes
  9. Frank Emilio Flynn / “Guerra De Flautas” / Ancestral Reflections/ Blue Note
  10. Maraca & His Latin Jazz All Stars / “Camerata En Guaguancó” / Reencuentros/ Descarga

RP Logo





Tom Schnabel