If Communism accomplished nothing else, it did manage to stop clocks all over the Communist-speaking world, so that much of the Cuban music in Cuba itself is something of a snapshot of the way things were BEFORE the proliferation of ‘Afro-Cuban’ music overseas, BEFORE the emergence of a plethora of new Spanish-language ‘Latin’ genres that would rival that of the English-speaking world, and maybe most of all… BEFORE Carlos Santana. I will tell you now, and I’ll tell you on my death bed, that no one single person is more responsible for putting that well-known sabor in modern Latin music than Don Carlos. He is the hot chile in that south-of the-border musical cuisine. He gave Latin music a new direction with a sharp edge, not just guitar-drenched, but rhythm-infused… and mind-penetrating. What he didn’t do himself directly, he did through his indirect influence, as simple comparisons before and after will attest.
The music of Tito Gonzalez comes from a simpler era, and his new album ‘Al Doblar la Esquina’ reflects that. This is an era when the brass in big bands ruled, the drums stayed respectfully on the sideline if not the background, and romancing the opposite sex was how you ‘got off.’ While Tito himself is a consummate player of the three-stringed tres (not to be confused with the cuatro), that pretty much stays in the background on this album and Tito mostly lets his rich baritone do the talking for him. Whatever it lacks in easy comprehensibility of intricate lyrics it makes up for with a rich melodic texture that wears well. The brass rule the harmonic airwaves on this album and that’s testament to Tito’s choice of a bandleader, too, in this case Jose Dumen, and a superb line-up of ex-pat Cuban musicians in the
This is one of those albums that only gets better as you go along. While most albums load their best stuff on the front-end of the batting order, Tito seems to be connecting first with the
Love is the predominant lyrical theme of the album, not surprising for a man who’s lived his life on the seas, overseas, and always somewhere in between where he’s ultimately going. With ‘Cuando Tu Te Fuistes’ (‘When You Left’) a serenade wtih brass, the pain is almost too much to bear, ‘todo cambio para mi, un profundo dolor que me atravesaba’ (‘everything changed, with the deep pain I was going through’). La Despedida’ (‘The Goodbye’) waxes philosophical, ‘yo soy tu amigo y te ayudara’ (‘I’m your friend and I’ll be there to help’), but ‘Cancion para Bonnie’ reflects his new life in the