Cuban charm

Cubanismo! flirting with new fans

For Jesus Alemañy, leader and trumpeter of the jazz band ¡Cubanismo!, this is a special time."Never in the history of Cuban music has it been promoted as it is today," he says. "It has spent more than 40 years in complete isolation, out of the market, out of the media. And now a lot of people understand that the roots of Latin music are coming from the isle of Cuba."
And ¡Cubanismo!, one of the pre-eminent jazz bands to emerge from Fidel Castro's post-revolutionary country, is embracing its new, English-speaking audience in America. Alemañy and company recently released a new CD, Mardi Gras Mambo, that melds American and Cuban jazz traditions.
"The idea was to approach the Anglo-Saxon community," he says. "We never used English lyrics or American songs before this album. And in this case we said, 'Let's really make it a mix of the music from the two cultures.'"
Mardi Gras Mambo, recorded in New Orleans with many popular Crescent City jazz musicians contributing, includes a gumbo of original Spanish songs and inspired covers of English hits like "Mother In Law" and "It Do Me Good."
There was an immediate bond between the Cuban and American musicians, Alemañy says. "You can hear in the most traditional New Orleans music, the influence of the Cuban music in the rhythms," he says.
The recording of the album included two weeks of music-making and partying, according the Alemañy.
"The people who invited us to the city of New Orleans, they organized a group of activities that included work shops, jam sessions, street parties, the traditional New Orleans foods. We went to the night clubs, we went to the radio — it was a full two weeks of activities."
Now, as they head out on tour this fall, ¡Cubanismo! hope to bring the party with them.
¡Cubanismo! perform at the Variety Playhouse, Sat., Oct. 7.