CD Review: Cha Cha Cha: Abelardo Barroso with Orquesta Sensación

Abelardo really was the comeback kid of Cuban music with at least three successful careers during his lifetime. Born in central Havana in the heart of a rumba ‘solar' (patio) he became the singer of the three greatest ‘Son' groups in the 1920's, and the first to appear on any recording. He was quickly known as ‘The Cuban Caruso' after the great Italian opera star.

Once the guitar based son was losing popularity In the 30's, he changed tack and combined his talents with the great bassist Cachao and the legendary pianist Orestes Lopes (also father of Cachaito from the Buena Vista Social Club) to pioneer danzonette music, which used the violins, flute and piano of the charanga sound to liven up the stately danzon.

When Abelardo found himself facing hard times during the early 50's it was the great Benny Moré who in a gesture of huge generosity not only found him work at the club where he was playing but paid off his rent arrears and found accommodation for Barroso and his whole family. This set him up to take his place in the wonderful Orquesta Sensación.

The angelic flute playing (and constantly inventive arrangements) of Juan Pablo Miranda, the lilting violins and driving rhythm section under the strong direction of Rolando Valdez were a worthy foil to his majestic singing which flowed easily from rumba to cha cha cha via AfroCuban chants and swinging son, all of which are represented on this release.

Much later in his life, long after he was capable of singing, Abelardo had news from his friends in Orquesta Aragón who had recently returned from Guinea. Cuban music was a hit in 1970's West Africa, and Abelardo Barroso was the most popular of them all. The kid had made yet another comeback.

This is a completely essential album and in the opinion of this reviewer stands equal with any compilation of Cuban music from the last 20 years. Congratulations must go to the World Circuit label for providing all fans of Cuban music with such a rich and enjoyable record which is great to dance to as well as a treat for the ears. Tiene Sabor!

This review appears in CubaSi Winter 14-15

World Circuit 2014

Buy the CD here

Watch the video here