This album of non-stop quality Cuban Casino dance music is a treasure for any lover of Cuban popular music or keen dancer.
Consisting of the best dance tunes by the internationally renowned Adalberto Álvarez y Su son, the 14 tracks come from his last six albums and include such dance classics as ‘Mi Linda Habanera’ which joyfully quotes from a host of iconic Cuban songs, the beautifully arranged ‘Gozando en La Habana’ and the 2018 masterpiece, ‘Los Buenos y Los Malos,’ all showing that Adalberto’s music, whilst complex and contemporary, is like the casino dance itself, steeped in tradition and respect for the styles of the past.
These songs, full of dance energy, are the work of one of the great figures in the last 40 years of Cuba’s illustrious musical history. Alvarez formed this band in 1984 after his huge success with the group Son 14, who were pioneers of modernising son using traditional instruments with electronic keyboards, timbales and brass. His songs have changed the face of Salsa in Latin America as well as of Son in Cuba.
In this collection, tracks were singled out to please and inspire the Casino or Salsa dancer – Casino being the popular mix of older dance forms such as Danzón, jive and traditional Son, which developed in the private clubs of 1950’s Havana, that has since been revived and spiced up to form an irresistible contemporary mix.
Álvarez himself was a key creator of the 2003 Cuban TV programme ‘Para Bailar Casino’ (with live bands and dance contests) which became so popular amongst young people it sparked a national movement. The effect also was that Adalberto’s band now attracted fresh new musicians and voices. Casino is often danced in a ‘rueda’ (wheel) where couples switch partners in complex and thrilling moves, all in sync. Alvarez’ frequent chorus changes throughout the numbers reinvent and energise each song several times over and are perfect for this style as well as providing a constant delight to dancers.
The musicianship of Álvarez’s band is impeccable throughout. Coping effortlessly with these – often challenging – arrangements, they show an understanding of when to fill space or leave it empty that comes only with living and breathing a culture.
This album is perfect for any Cuban dance party and a fitting tribute to one of Cuba’s all-time musical giants.
By Dave Willetts for CubaSi magazine Autumn 2018
CD: Adalberto Álvarez y su son: Casino…el baile popular