Cuba L.A. Navidad Cubana (Narada)

Christmas Records

Cuba L.A.

Navidad Cubana (Narada)

The Cuban musical invasion is still going strong; witness this release of Christmas songs done Cuban-style. More than any other standards, holiday songs have been done to death, but on their third full-length release, Cuba L.A. instrumentally interprets 12 such seasonal classics. In doing so, the Los Angeles-based, mostly Cuban, 10-piece band bend and loop the tired melodies into new directions. Founded and led by flutist and musicologist Danilo Lozano, Cuba L.A. is rounded out by congas, bass, piano, horns, and Latin percussion. While not typically found in Cuban music, the violin adds a nice Stephane Grappelli touch to opener "Let It Snow." "Good King Wenceslas" is another highlight, the old composition turned into a glassy polyrhythmic jam. The group's interpretation of "Silent Night," recognizable yet entertaining, shows just how successfully Cuban styles can be applied. Perhaps this collection comes off so well because it was recorded live in the studio; the clean and clear recording lets the melodies and rhythms breathe new life into these holiday warhorses. Fans of Afro-Latin music will eat up Navidad Cubana, and so too might that traditionalist grandpa in every family.

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