June 13, 2024


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CD review: Adriano Clemente – Cuban Fires 2018: Video

Continuing from where he left off in his journey through the ritual magic of the Afro-Cuban musical experience some two years ago Adriano Clemente has surfaced from his deep dive with the music of Cuban Fires.

The music is brought to fruition by what sounds like a substantially-enhanced Akashmani Ensemble that is considerably inspired by Mr Clemente’s music. The ensemble certainly lives up to its name – which is created ostensibly from a Sanskrit amalgam that means “celestial” (Akash) “jewel” (mani) – and it also fulfills its prime directive, which is to pierce the ornate fabric of Afro-Cuban music in a meaningful, spiritual way.

Invoking the deity Obatalà right out of the gates the group burns its way through “Cuban Fires” having been led into the main body of the music by a Yoruba chant to “the father of all humanity”. Clearly His blessings are bestowed upon Mr Clemente and the Akashmani Ensemble. The former, a composer certainly seems to have been granted honorary Cuban status as this music suggests. The repertoire traverses through the various forms of highly combustible Afro-Cuban music. A visceral energy exudes throughout and much of this has to do with the mastery of percussionists led by Degnis Bofill on batá drums and other percussion, the conguero Eduardo Silveira and Deivys Rubalcaba who together with bassist Roberto “El Chino” Vásquez have succeeded in creating a mighty wall of rhythm.

But far from being impenetrable this mighty edifice is bent and shaped into all things wonderfully harmonic by the horn ensemble which performs with great fire from “Cuban Fires” to “Mambo House”, but can also be heard to be extraordinarily tender on the beautiful bolero “Con Alma”, a requiem for the composer’s friend Enrico Dell’Angelo. The virtuoso pianism of Alejandro Falcón is the magical glue that holds all of the music together and may be listened to with great admiration as Falcón weaves his enchanting web of music with varying moods and emotion through the effervescent “Mango Cha” and “Nueva Alegría” and the mesmerising “Olvidado”.

The surprises, when they come, are effective and discreet: raw African rhythms collide with Thommy Lowry’s trumpet soli which brings a rippling jazzy groove that gently builds in heat and momentum often spurred on by the horns of the trombonist Eduardo Sandoval, as well as Michel Herrera and Emir Santa Cruz who alternate on various saxophones, the latter alternating on clarinet as well. The ensemble parlays like old friends creating a mellifluous mélange throughout this repertoire launching into the music with a broodingly tumbling percussive groove from beginning to end. Whether blowing hot or spacey and cool, this ensemble is transformative and utterly memorable.

All in all Cuban Fires has definitely been worth the wait from Mr Clemente’s earlier Afro-Cuban sojourn which he (then) entitled Havana Blue. Both recordings are touching and toe-tapping in equal measure.

Track list:

1: Cuban Fires;

2: Con Alma (For Enrico);

3: Mango Cha;

4: Nueva Alegria;

5: Mambo House;

6: G Son;

7: Olvidado;

8: Cuban Fires (Reprise)


Adriano Clemente: compositions and arrangements;

Akashmani Ensemble – Thommy Lowry: trumpet and flugelhorn;

Eduardo Sandoval: trombone;

Michel Herrera: alto and baritone saxophones, and tenor saxophone (8);

Emir Santa Cruz: tenor saxophone and clarinet;

Alejandro Falcòn: piano;

Roberto “El Chino” Vàsquez: bass;

Eduardo Silveira: congas, bongò, güiro and cowbell;

Deivys Rubalcaba: timbales, güiro, cowbell and maracas;

Degnis Bofill: batà drums and percussion

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