There is little which
better typifies the traditional music
of Cuba than the solo acoustic guitar.
While in Europe and America the guitar
is mostly a vehicle for folk and popular
music, in Cuba it is an instrument steeped
in tradition, in the realms of jazz,
classical, as well as Spanish folk.
The works composed for it are in the
traditional European forms, the tonalities
often modal or impressionist, and the
techniques and rhythms distinct enough
actually to be referred to as ‘Afro-Cuban’.
This album is an exploration
of many diverse works written for the
nylon string guitar in the latter half
of the 20th century. As such
it takes several different composers
and styles of Cuban guitar music and
presents them unadorned in their beautiful
The album begins with
the relatively familiar El manicero
(The Peanut-Seller), which Stan Kenton’s
orchestra so memorably and admirably
performed (under the title The Peanut
Vendor). The version presented here
is a treat to listen to, and a wonderful
way to introduce the album.
The following works
are by Nico Rojas, a Cuban composer
and guitarist who was instrumental in
the revivification of Cuban popular
song in the 1940s, Harold Gramatges
and Carlos Fariñas, both neo-classical
composers who had studied with Aaron
Copland, Aldo Rodríguez who has
been often recognized by the international
musical community for his excellence
in composition, and by the Cuban government
as a musical treasure, Leo Brouwer,
internationally recognized as a film
score composer and founder of the Cuban
Guitar Competition and Festival, and
Hector Angulo. The result is diverse
enough to maintain interest, while similar
enough to maintain a consistent feel.
The performer, Marco
Tamayo, does an excellent job. His recorded
technique is flawless, both when using
the traditional European style of picking
and strumming, and the more Spanish
and Caribbean influenced techniques.
A native of Cuba, he had the opportunity
to study under many of the composers
presented on this disc. This is fully
evident in the loving care he gives
these works. The recording itself is
very well done, and does a nice job
of highlighting his technique.
In short, this album
is very good and highly recommended.
Much of the work may be unfamiliar,
but none of it will be unapproachable.
Each piece is a gem, wonderfully written,
performed, and recorded. The album is
suitable for background or mood music,
but excels when scrutinized and given
active attention. Short of buying a
ticket for a weekend excursion to Havana,
this is certainly one of the most enjoyable
ways to explore the musical traditions
of Cuba that this reviewer has come