Caliente: New, Hot Latin Releases that Sizzle!

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​A roundup of recent Latin releases celebrates vibrant new music that’s deeply rooted in cultural histories, geographies and legacies.

(Photo: DownBeat)

This crop of great sounds shares the soundtrack of a vibrant Latinidad that is deeply rooted in cultural histories, geographies and legacies. Enjoy!


Sofia Rei and Jorge Roeder

Coplas Escondidas (Hidden Tales)

(Cascabelera)

On her third album, New-York based Argentine vocalist, composer and producer Sofia Rei continues her shapeshifting exploration of melodies and rhythms from Latin America. Here, she joins forces with Peruvian-born bassist and composer Jorge Roeder, also based in New York City, who moves within the realms of jazz, folk and classical music with aplomb. Together for the first time, they create musical magic. Coplas Escondidas shares 11 beautifully austere ballads sung in three languages — Spanish, Portuguese and English — by renowned composers from Chabuca Granda to Thelonius Monk. The result is music of breathtaking beauty and emotional depth that showcase Rei’s luminous voice, masterfully enveloped in a tapestry of Roeder’s evocative bass lines.


Jonathan Suazo

Ricano

(Ropeadope)

On Ricano, saxophonist and composer Jonathan Suazo illuminates his Puerto Rican/Dominican roots and features other musicians who have inspired his work, such as Puerto Rico’s Miguel Zenón and David Sánchez. This debut album (whose title combines the words Puertorriqueño and Dominicano) centers the artists’ two heritages in a unique fusion. The tracks range from “Heroes,” focusing the percussion, vocals and chants of the powerful salve of the D.R.’s Enerolisa Nuñez, a member of the Mata los Indios community who has kept the centuries-old tradition alive, to “Somos más que tú,” inspired by Puerto Rico’s plena genre (a mainstay of protest music) to the final track, “Amapola,” a tune by Dominican pop-roots icon Juan Luis Guerra that Suazo envelops in a soundscape propelled by lyrical sax playing.


Latin-Jazz Sinfonica & German Pops Orchestra

Kaleidoskop

(Neuklang)

Recorded last year at Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg, Kaleidoskop brings together 18 jazz and Latin musicians and 39 orchestra musicians with jazz greats such as Kristjan Randalu on piano, Wim de Vries on drums and Uli Röser on trombone, as well as the musicians of the German Pops Orchestra led by concertmaster Uli Zimmer. The 12 lovely tracks reveal a kaleidoscope of musical colors and shapes, fueled by compositions expressing Latin-Jazz Sinfonica founder Julia H. M. Diederich’s passion for Latin music, jazz and symphonic arrangements. Throughout the recording, both the orchestral and the jazz elements maintain equal protagonism within interlocking rhythms and expansive, cinematic compositions punctuated by masterful solos.


Sammy Figueroa

Searching For A Memory (Busco tu Recuerdo)

(Ashe)

On his first album in nearly 10 years, via 11 gorgeous boleros, Puerto Rican percussionist Sammy Figueroa embraces the music of famed 1950s Puerto Rican singer Charlie Figueroa, the father he never knew. The stellar lineup includes pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba (who also co-produced the concept album), marvelous Cuban chanteuse Aymee Nuviola, bassist Ricky Rodriguez, drummer Ludwig Afonso and Cuban saxophone player Felipe LaMoglia, as well as several guests, including saxophonist Miguel Zenón, trumpeter John Daversa, Munir Hossn on guitar and percussion and Magela Herrera on flute. A poignant father-and-son reunion takes place during the title track (Charlie Figueroa’s greatest hit) as Figueroa sings on a recording for the first time and ends the song with a poignant whisper, “Charlie Figueroa, te quiero.”


Harold López-Nussa

Timba a la Americana

(Blue Note)

Timba a la Americana is Cuban pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa’s Blue Note debut and 10th album. Produced by Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League, López-Nussa shares 10 spirited tunes, ranging from the fiery to the lyrical, ably accompanied by Grégoire Maret on harmonica, Luques Curtis on bass, Bárbaro “Machito” Crespo on congas and Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums. Inspired by his move to Paris from Cuba, the 10 tracks mix in elements of his homeland’s iconic genres such as danzón, mambo, timba and rumba as well as traditional bata drums and synths in complex, heady mezclas. Timba a la Americana is a musical love-letter to the cornerstones of Cuban grooves, now filtered through new insights afforded by distance and perspective, and propelled by López-Nussa’s polished, superb playing.


Hilario Durán

Cry Me A River

(Alma)

On Cry Me A River, Cuban-Canadian maestro Hilario Durán’s first big band recording in nearly two decades, the Grammy-nominated and Juno Award-winning pianist, composer and band director leads a 19-piece ensemble with magnificent results. The nine tunes draw sustenance from Durán’s traditions, yet along the way also pay homage to maestros from both the classical and jazz realms. Invited guests include acclaimed Cuban alto saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, drummer and percussionist Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Okan’s Elizabeth Rodriguez on violins. Cry Me A River is remarkable for inventive arrangements that intertwine traditional grooves with fabulously lush, richly textured orchestration and uninhibited improvisation.


Miguel Zenón

El Arte del Bolero, Vol. 2

(Miel)

The union of the intense bolero and jazz is a marriage made in heaven, in which the possibilities of expressing passion, longing and other delicious romantic torments find perfect expression. For his second album dedicated to the iconic Latin American art form, Zenón, a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow, pairs up with another virtuoso and frequent long-time collaborator, Venezuelan Luis Perdomo, a New York-based, Grammy-nominated pianist, composer, arranger and educator. Together, they explore six exquisite, seminal songs, including Venezuelan icon Simon Diaz’s “Caballo Viejo” and Mexican songwriter Emma Elena Valdelamar’s “Mucho Corazón.” In an extraordinary follow-up to El Arte del Boro, Vol. 1, these timeless tunes are slowed down, blended with unusual elements, played out of time, deconstructed and reconstructed as Zenón and Perdomo extract nuances from the originals that we hardly imagined could exist.


Santiago Big Band Featuring Marcos Fernandez/Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Featuring Arturo O’Farrill

Santiago–Brooklyn–Santiago

(Zoho)

A pandemic-times collaboration between two jazz greats who both play the piano — Santiago, Cuba’s Marcos Fernandez and Brooklyn, New York’s Arturo O’Farrill — Santiago–Brooklyn–Santiago is fabulously alive, despite the fact that the several dozen members of each maestro’s ensemble (Santiago Big Band and Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, respectively) actually completed all the recordings separately, back in 2022. Featuring a stellar series of invited musical guests, the Santiago Big Band recorded at Siboney Studios in Santiago de Cuba’s Studios 18 Egrem, and PM Records in Havana, while the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra recorded remotely at the homes of orchestra members. The vital pulse of the city of Santiago and its rumba, guaganco, comparsa, son, cha-cha and mambo grooves all intertwine in this extraordinary artistic exchange. It’s a testament to the power of art to overcome any divisions that political entities might impose. DB



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