1976, 1978, Music

Grupo Irakere (1976, 1978)

So much of what I’ve read about this band focuses on their Grammy-winning North American breakthrough, as if the first time North Americans heard this music was the first time it was really vital and worth listening to. And I do understand that distribution was a different beast in the ’70s, but still, it’s a little rich to tell everyone that the first album Columbia released by this band is their “best.”

Anyway, I bring this up because, in searching for their North American debut, I found, instead, this gem, their second release. (Their North American debut was either their 4th or their 7th, depending on which discography you consult.) And…well, what can I say? This is awesome stuff.

I recently listened to Azymuth, a Brazilian band doing a similar thing – combining local music with contemporary jazz – and was sorely disappointed. Maybe it’s me, but this music is far more alive, more more alive and far more “jazz” than that. (I don’t mean to spend this whole thing bashing Azymuth, I just think of them as a useful comparison, given their fame.)

This music combines traditional music and Latin Jazz with a healthy dose of James Brown plus Jazz Fusion and other strains of jazz (such as Cool). The sound varies, sometimes drastically, from track to track, with the composer. And it seems like their collective nature has a lot to do with the diversity of this record.

But anyway, the vitality of this stuff is incredible. This is a band that can seemingly do anything (within their Afro Cuban realm, anyway) and which brings a sense of fun missing from a lot of contemporary jazz.
Just fantastic stuff.


Note: Some sources say this album was released in 1976 in Cuba, not 1978.

  1. “Camaguey” By Jesús (Chucho) Valdés, Rodolfo Estobal
  2. “38 1/2” By Chucho Valdés
  3. “En Nosotros” By Tania Castellanos
  4. “Juana 1600” By Chucho Valdés
  5. “Moja El Pan” By Oscar Valdés
  6. “Este Camino Largo” By Juan Almeida
  7. “Xiomara Mayoral – Xiomara” By Evaristo Aparicio Fresneda, Miguel Angel Ruíz
  8. “Iya” By Arturo Sandoval

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