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Cuban music and gypsy jazz... a good combination?

Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
I just got back from a ten day holiday in Veradero, Cuba, where the weather was perfect and we had a great time.

Those who've never been to Cuba may not know this, but just about every hotel in the touristy areas of Cuba will have a band consisting of two acoustic guitars and a "drummer"--- ie, somebody with at least a cheap set of bongos and a cowbell.

Sometimes the band will also have an upright bass, but these seem to be pretty rare in Cuba, as are other additional instruments such as sax, or flute, or violin.

Getting back to the guitars: usually the rhythm guitarist plays a nylon-string guitar with a plectrum, while the lead is played on a small Cuban guitar called a "tres" with three pairs of mandolin-style doubled strings, one of the pairs being an octave apart to give a sound somewhere between a mandolin and a 12-string.

The Tres player will usually alternate between playing syncopated backup arpeggios and melody. The sound is bright and infectious and uniquely Cuban. I liked it so much that I brought one back with me in hopes of learning to do a bit with it.

The band will usually sing in folky-style harmony (standard songs are "Guantamera" or "Besame Mucho", but I did once hear "Dark Eyes"), interspersed with occasional lead guitar solos. The tempos are fairly moderate, but very sexy and danceable, with Latin-sounding "drums" usually predominating over a barely audible rhythm guitar. You'd immediately this sound immediately if you've ever heard Ry Cooder's film/CD "Buena Vista Social Club".

It occurred to me that a marriage of Cuban music and gypsy jazz might be beneficial to both parties.

The gypsies could teach the Cubans a thing or two about virtuosity... while the Cubans could teach the gypsies a thing or two about a sexy, danceable rhythm groove with some mainstream appeal!
I live in a little tourist town called Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada, which is about twenty miles north of Niagara Falls.

If you are ever planning on visiting the beautiful Niagara area, feel free to PM me and perhaps we can get together and do some jamming.

Comments

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,743
    Can you post any recordings that demonstrate the style?

    Thanks
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,348
    Bones, I didn't get to see him play when I was in Cuba, but Francisco "Pancho" Amat is regarded as the greatest living player of the Cuban tres guitar, according to the musicians I talked to.

    Here are a few YouTube clips of him playing solo or with a band:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiuN-zjLiN0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dETegJfotXc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyEJF6gj ... re=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkHkCmfuag8

    BIO: Born in Havana province in 1950, Amat studied music formally, founded the group Manguaré in 1971 and led it for 17 years, during which time he and his compatriots served as international cultural ambassadors. Amat studied in Chile with Orquesta Aragón leader Rafael Lay, and elevated tres-playing to a new level by applying theory and technique gleaned from his mastery of classical, jazz and trova forms.

    Amat is also a record and television producer, and has played with musical luminaries at home and abroad including Ry Cooder, the Chieftains, and countless Cuban and Latino bands most of us Anglos have never heard of.
    I live in a little tourist town called Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada, which is about twenty miles north of Niagara Falls.

    If you are ever planning on visiting the beautiful Niagara area, feel free to PM me and perhaps we can get together and do some jamming.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,743
    Cool stuff!

    Wow, the string spacing on those instruments is HUGE.
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