Sounds – CD Reviews – Danzonemos

Latin Beat Magazine; 2/1/1998; Varela, Jesse

Like good Cuban cigars, good danzón bands are hard to come by. Virtually invisible in the United States, you barely find them in Cuba, where it all began. A combination of European classical and the island's African musical traditions, the music was created around the turn-of-the-century to get couples to dance physically together - body to body. But its modern day scarcity could change if La Moderna Tradición has its way. Co-led by renowned Cuban dancer and percussionist Roberto Borrell and violinist Tregar Otton, this fine 11-piece charanga ensemble is working to revive the intricate French-influenced parlor dance. In this debut, LMT sets a foundation with 12 classics from the danzón's evolution (danzón-cha, chachachá etc.). Opening with the group's theme, it leads us to the 1910 landmark "El Bombin De Barretto" by José Urfe, which articulates the fusion of the Afro-Cuban son to a music then associated with the aristocratic classes of Cuba. From there, treasures abound from the classic repertoire of the great orchestras like Orquesta Aragón (Si, Envidia, Recreo Estudiantal) and others. The lone original - Cuerdas de Amor - is written by Otton, an avant violinist from Texas with a formidable reputation in classical, jazz, and new music. A fitting homage to the tradition's string players, the piece is anchored by the playing of Kash Killian (cello), Sandy Poindexter (violin), and drummer Michael Spiro. Largely instrumental, LMT uses an old-school framework that includes clarinet as well as the Cuban folkloric tres guitar. At a time when Afro-Caribbean dance music is in a lull, perhaps this contemporary look back at salsa's early music could inspire the next big thing - whatever that is. But until then - "danzonemos!"