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Alex Cuba Band - Humo de Tabaco


Review: Jack Foley

ANYONE who has derived any pleasure from listening to the delights of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club had better rush to get a load of The Alex Cuba Band.

Comprised of sons of the Buena Vista outfit, Alex Cuba and co have set about delivering an album rich in Cuban passion - whether upbeat or heartfelt, making this an extremely classy affair from an outfit we're sure to hear a lot more from.

The band has already attracted some notable publicity, following the release of the single, Lo Mismo Que You (If Only), an epic ballad that seems designed to tug at the heart-strings.

The master-stroke, however, was recruiting the vocal services of Canadian singer/songwriter, Ron Sexsmith, whose presence merely served to underline the quality we should come to expect from Cuba and co, and who helped lend the track a broader crossover appeal.

Sexsmith wasn't the only collaborator of note, however, given that two-time Grammy award-winning pianist, Chucho Valdes, also lends his talents, giving the track a more cinematic feel.

Lo Mismo Que You (If Only) probably represents the album at its most thoughtful and reflective, while the Latin rhythms of Muevete lend the album a vibrancy that raises the temperature somewhat.

The trumpets and percussion are terrific, transporting the listener to the steamy bars of late-night Havana in suitably hip-shaking style.

Yet such is Alexis Puentes talent, the quality of the music seems almost effortless, and he is equally comfortable singing mambo, cha cha, ballads and rumba.

What's more, the album does a brilliant job of balancing the vocals and the music - which is no mean feat given the amount of gifted musicians on show.

Puentes' voice can be delicate at times, as on Dime Si Despues, when it is allowed to take centre-stage to the strings and percussion that provide a nice backdrop. Likewise, the heartfelt Daniel's Lullaby, which was written for his young son.

But it can also work in tandem with the instruments, as in the excellent album finale, and title track, Humo De Tabaco, which also features a sublime tres guitar solo from Pancho Amat.

Yet this is an album that's clearly designed to touch the heart, which it does with passion and grace.

Track listing:
1. Fuego
2. Di Que Me Amas
3. Lo Mismo Que Mo (If Only)-With Ron Sexsmith
4. Muevete
5. Cafe Havana
6. Dime Si Despues
7. Piropo
8. Daniel's Lullaby
9. Bailalo Ahora
10. Humo De Tabaco

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