With their fourth album, Ño Qué Bueno Está, the 13-member Cuban jazz ensemble Bamboleo provide an explosive alternative to Buena Vista Social Club jazz in the form of timba a combination of jazz, soul, funk, salsa and Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
The first four tracks of Ño, which is Cuban for "wow!," "ouch!" or any number of exclamations, were recorded live and show Bamboleo at their best. With four singers, four horns, two percussionists, a bassist, pianist and drummer, the group has more than enough firepower to bring a crowd to its feet. On songs like "Recapacita" (RealAudio excerpt), singers Vannia Borges and Yordamis M. Megret bring powerful, thick voices that contrast perfectly with the rapid-fire rhythm section. Megret blankets her notes on top of bandleader Lazaro Valdes' flying piano keys and Dunesky Barreto's brisk conga work.
The last six tracks are remixes of the group's songs "Ño Qué Bueno Está" and "Lo Que Quiero Es Bamboleo." Most are overly geared to a house-music audience and suffer from similarity; only the "Live Studio Party Mix" of "Ño Qué Bueno Está" is distinct, with real drums replacing pounding digital drums and horns playing alongside DJ scratching and rapping.
"Yo No Me Parezco a Nadie" (RealAudio excerpt) is the closest Bamboleo get to traditional Cuban jazz. Borges provides a sensual voice between the harmonic chorus of the four singers, with Anselmo "Carmelo" Camero and Juan Carlos "Chocolate" Borrego providing bracing bursts of trumpet.
The singers end the final live cut by chanting, "My music is why you dance." That pretty much sums up Bamboleo.