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Ruben Gonzalez Jr. feat. Pio Leiva & El Nene Mulatas Magicas


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"A chip off the old block” goes the saying. Here this applies to Ruben Gonzalez, Jr. who inherited his musical talent from his father. Father (who was born in 1919) and son share not only the same first name and surname, but also their [...]

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Ruben Gonzalez Jr. feat. Pio Leiva & El Nene Mulatas Magicas


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"A chip off the old block” goes the saying. Here this applies to Ruben Gonzalez, Jr. who inherited his musical talent from his father. Father (who was born in 1919) and son share not only the same first name and surname, but also their gift for the piano. Ruben Gonzalez – senior, that is – played for a quarter of a century in the band of cha-cha inventor Enrique Jorrin and worked with Mongo Santamaria. In 1997 he joined the Buena Vista Social Club, where he gave a brilliant performance. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 78, he released his belated solo debut album "Introducing Ruben Gonzalez". And so now his son is treading in the great footprints of that musical institution, and astonishingly he has filled them straight away. "Like father, like son", we feel like saying when we hear Ruben Gonzalez Jr.’s solo premiere. On this made-to-measure debut album the Cuban artist shows what a remarkable virtuoso of the black and white keys he is. On the album "Buena Vista: The Next Generation" he played an impressive support role with his skilled fingering. Now he uses the space of the first release in his own name to present the whole bandwidth of his playing, from the Latin American school to jazz influences, to classical music.
 
"Mulatas Magicas" was created under the musical directorship of Juan Pablo Torres in Havanna; established great names and promising new artists dropped in on studio sessions with Ruben Gonzalez, Jr.:

Chiki Chaka Girls: The sisters, Arlenys and Annalays, are rightly viewed as one of the hopes on Cuba’s music scene. Here they present two great tracks with their cheerful, youthful voices. In "Cabildo" Arlenys takes up the lead vocals and we can hear heart-rending longing in her voice. In "Sobreando", produced in modern style, Annalays takes the microphone. This Latin pop number with a built-in hit guarantee settles in your ears the first time you hear it and refuses to go away. What’s the betting this catchy number will storm the charts!
Maria Elena Lazo: On the track "Rico Tumbao" the mother of Arlenys and Annalays shows she is a vocalist full of abandon and high spirits. In recent years this Cuban lady has made a name as the star of the "Tropicana" cabaret, on joint acts with Generoso "El Tojo" Jimenez, Julio Padron and the Orquesta Cumbre de Pinar de Rio, and also on her solo album "Perlas de Cuba". For "Cuba Swings" by Juan Pablo Torres she provided a wonderful Spanish version of the jazz standard "Autumn Leaves".

"El Nene" (the stage name of Pedro Lugo Martinez): here the young singer excels on the track "Marieta" with his immensely powerful singing: this and his pronounced gift for boleros and ballads have recently made him very popular in his home country of Cuba. Although still young, "El Nene" has already participated with the Estrellas de Areito, Amadito Valdes and Manolito Simonet. He also became famous as front man of Jovenes Clasicos del Son. With his album "Tambor en al Alma" the septet hit the headlines worldwide. For example, "Descarga.com" wrote: "This exciting, fresh Son Salsa Cubana release by a new generation will knock you over … thoroughly recommended".

Pio Leiva: He belongs to the bedrock of Cuban music; born in 1917, he ranks a chapter of his own in the "Great Book of Cuban Music History". Now 86 years old, he can look back on a dynamic artistic biography. First place must of course go to his participation in the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, and his work with Compay Segundo and Ibrahim Ferrer is also essential. Also, Leiva’s name appeared on album credits of Rudy Calzado, Cesar Pedroso and Soneros de Verdad. This Methuselah sports the nickname "El Montunero de Cuba" because of his inventiveness. In son music, "montuno" stands for those improvised passages where the solo singer thinks up spontaneous lyrics; Pio Leiva is a true master of this genre. Ruben Gonzalez, Jr. managed to sign up this living legend for the last track of his first solo album. On "Pio Pio Pa" the veteran serenely demonstrates his whole treasure trove of experience from his long life.

Just a side note: Wim Wenders, whose documentary of "Buena Vista Social Club" proved he has a nose for exceptional musical creations, is next year going to bring out a movie with the young, trailblazing Cuban music scene embedded in a story. Some of the artists mentioned here will feature.  You will be able to see and hear "El Nene" and the Chiki Chaka Girls. Pio Leiva will take us through the story in his humorous way and will play the part of the man of experience giving advice to striving newcomers.
But to come back to Ruben Gonzalez, Jr.: the pianist has left an unforgettable musical visiting card in the form of "Mulatas Magicas". With the help of the guests named here he has created a breathtaking mixture of new and old, traditional and modern which should be warmly welcomed by fans of both classical son sounds and contemporary Latin pop. A new star is born!
 


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