Rumba On The River

Ferries ran between Havana and New Orleans less than a century ago. Politics may have severely limited traffic between Cuba and the United States in subsequent years, but, as Cubanismo! demonstrate on their fourth album, the musical bridge still stands firm.

Working with the Big Easy's Yockamo All-Stars, the large ensemble proves that shifting gears between New Orleans R&B and the sound of Havana's Malecon Boulevard is perfectly natural, as on their joyous version of Ernie K. Doe's 1961 hit, "Mother In Law" (RealAudio excerpt). This summit meeting is on level ground, with neither side dominating the proceedings. It produces such interesting results as Eric "Cashus" Clay's rap over the timba rhythm of "Rampart Street Rumba" (RealAudio excerpt), where two traditions combine to create a truly contemporary Caribbean sound. The point where Cuban polyrhythms meet the second-line beats of New Orleans brass bands is fertile ground indeed, but the union's real highlight is the wonderfully greasy bolero "Nothing Up My Sleeve" (RealAudio excerpt), which is as sweet as a beignet and as spicy as black beans and rice. If only these musicians' respective political leaders were so creative.