Jesus Alemany's Cubanismo | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jesus Alemany's Cubanismo 

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In spite of the government's destructive, insupportable, and hypocritical stance on Cuba--or maybe because of it--that island's irresistible music now enjoys greater visibility in the U.S. than at any time since the 1950s. In Chicago, not only the music--in the form of salsa from other parts of the Antilles--but Cuban musicians themselves have been showing up with surprising frequency (witness the return, in this engagement, of the percussion master Tata Guines, who came through town just weeks ago with the Thunder Drums show). Cubanismo!, the band led by trumpeter Jesus Alemany, is a 14-piece orchestra that reinvestigates the Cuban dance-music tradition, propelling the idiom into the present with its roots intact. As heard on last year's knockout CD Cubanismo! and the new Malembe (both on Hannibal), Alemany has no trouble integrating his jazz sensibilities with the demands (and the possibilities) of pure Cuban rhythms and song forms. The word cubanismo connotes the distinctiveness of Cuban culture from that of Spanish-speaking Latin America. Alemany lives as an expatriate in London, but you can hear that the term applies nonetheless--and nowhere more than in the overt applications of the American jazz aesthetic. These seemingly alien touches recall the cross-pollination between jazz and Cuban music that shaped both the island's dance bands in the 30s and jazz itself (especially in the 40s and 50s). Alemany himself plays a decidedly Cuban brand of trumpet: broad-toned, with the requisite power on the searing high notes that dominate the proceedings and a powerful pulse that animates even a single-note clarion. His pianist, the Paris-based expat Alfredo Rodriguez, receives featured billing on the albums and deserves it: his rich montuno figures and sparkling solos speak Cuban as clearly as the brass bursts and flute solos that punctuate this band's scintillating arrangements. Friday, 9:30 PM, Apollo's 2000, 2875 W. Cermak; 773-247-0200 or 312-559-1212. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Jesus Alemany by Raquel Dias.

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