"I'll See You In C.U.B.A." is the latest release from Pablo Menendez and Mezcla. It features a large cast of musicians and some very special guests. The one thing I can say about this CD is that if you think you know Cuban music, you might be wrong. Because as with any jazz, it has evolved. Like Cuba itself, it has not been stagnant but has grown and the music is infused with that vitality. Menendez and the musicians of Mezcla provide a vast canvas upon which they paint many stories. Familiar stories that touch the musical roots of Cuban traditional music, jazz and contemporary rhythms. From the opening cut entitled "Big Brecker", a composition by Orlando Sanchez, a loving tribute to Michael Brecker, and throughout the rest of the CD, you hear a blended mix of rhythms and styles. The best part is that at no time do you feel you left the Cuban jazz groove. But you hear it from so many perspectives. The line-up of musicians helps to keep it fresh. No less than eleven musicians are featured on this CD with guest appearances by another five or six. To honest I could not keep track of who was on what track, and it was written in the liner notes!! All I know is the collaboration worked!
Many of the familiar cuts were presented with unique arrangements enabling the ensemble to express these compositions in a new and fresh way. Infusing each song with the Cuban jazz theme, but tapping into a vast array of Cuban rhythms. These various rhythms alone made songs I am familiar with seem brand new. While I did find the title track entertaining it is not the reason I would recommend the CD, but all the other tracks are worthy of a listen. The liner notes go into a detailed explaination of the song choices and the roles these songs play in the lives of the various musicians. I am not here to reproduce that text, but to highlight the musical accomplishment that this CD is. Menendez is a remarkable guitarist worthy of noting in any critical assessment of this work. His fellow musicians all communicated to me a strong sense of place in the music and a sensitivity to the genre and ethnic tradition of the Cuban music that should convince any listener that there is a diversity beyond description.
Track after track I was exposed to new interpretations and when I got to "'Round Midnight" I was not disappointed with the arrangement. For me, it too was very fresh!
This CD is a worthy listen and to the Cuban Jazz fan, a must have. A very pleasent experience and a further reason why we should normalize relations with Cuba, so we can get more people exposed to this great music!