Cuban Masters: Los Originales (Cuban Masters)
When Juan de Marcos Gonzalez put together the studio agglomeration that would become known as the Buena Vista Social Club, he called upon some truly forgotten talents to fill the roster. Well, the Cuban Masters haven't shared that fate. This crew, helmed by trombone ace and arranger Juan Pablo Torres (who headed up the original Social Club, Las Estrellas de Arieto, and later Ralph Mercado's TropiJazz All-Stars) consists of heavy hitters from top to bottom. Start with Cachao, the bassist who, along with his brother Orestes, invented mambo; Chocolate Armenteros, the braying trumpet in Arsenio Rodriguez's conjunto; percussionists Patato Valdes and Francisco Aguabella, two of the most influential congueros in Afro-Cuban jazz; pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, lately of Cubanismo -- and those are just the big names on the marquee. You don't expect a curatorial crew such as this to refashion the music, and they don't. Simply, this is a loose and rollicking masters session, akin to the Cotton Club cuttin' contests of yesteryear. To be sure, there's plenty to learn here: The aptly titled "Cachao es Mambo" features his signature brooding brawn; it's followed immediately by "Toca la Flauta Fajardo," where the late charanga innovator demonstrates the tart, birdcall phrases that propelled his groups of the '50s. "Los Dos Alfredos" alternates between ballads and piano son -- quoting "Lagrimas Negras" and other standards -- showing both sides of Rodriguez's talents. Going back to school never sounded so good.