Afro-Cuban All Stars Biography

This Cuban big band was specially assembled by Juan de Marcos González of Sierra Maestra to participate in a two-week recording session at Egrem studios, Havana, in March 1996. The line-up spanned three generations of Cuban musicians, from 80-year-old flute player Richard Egües, to 14-year-old percussionist Julienne Oviedo Sanchez. A Toda Cuba Le Gusta (All Of Cuba Loves It) was recorded in the first six days of the session, following which the debut album by Rubén González (the All Stars’ 77-year-old pianist) and Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club were both also completed. Cooder added stinging blues guitar to ‘Alta Songo’, one of the stand-out tracks on A Toda Cuba Le Gusta. Other non-Cuban elements included a baroque classical piano solo within a son (i.e., Cuban song style) arrangement on ‘Clasiqueando Con Ruben’, and the closing ‘Elube Chango’, which was sung in the Yoruba language of Nigeria. However, much of the album joyously echoed and updated the sound of the great Cuban ‘orquestras’ of the 40s and 50s (in which the older members of the group all played), using classic songs from that era as well as newer tunes that suited the overall feel. To coincide with the release of the album, the All Stars undertook a well-received 40-date tour of Europe in the spring of 1997.

Two years later González returned with a new All Stars line-up for the album, Distinto, Diferente, which featured over 50 musicians. They included old friends such as Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer alongside younger players from the latest wave of Cuban music (including members of NG La Banda and Dan Den), and the result was a broader, more modern and dance-orientated sound. To promote the album a 17-piece line-up performed throughout Europe in late 1999. Vocalist Félix Baloy took the lead throughout most of 2001’s Baila Mi Son, helping to give the unit a more focused image.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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