Cuban Music Group Tiempo Libre Celebrates the Thrill of American Radio in New Timba Album, My Secret Radio
(Published: April 01, 2011)
SONY MASTERWORKS announces the new album My Secret Radio by three-time Grammy nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre, available May 3, 2011. Featuring the group's signature timba music - an intense, sophisticated mix of Latin jazz and danceable Afro-Cuban rhythms - My Secret Radio conjures the seven musicians' teenage years in Havana when they secretly listened to forbidden American music. Through lyrics which capture both sides of the immigrant experience - from the secret radio sessions which fueled dreams of life in America to the perplexities of starting life in a new country - Tiempo Libre pays tribute to magic of American radio and the profound influence it had on their lives and music. The project reunites Tiempo Libre's founder, Jorge Gomez, with the legendary Cuban songstress Albita and includes a guest vocal by Rachelle Fleming. My Secret Radio was produced by Jorge Gomez and Juan Cristobal Losada at Sonic Projects Studios@peermusic in Miami.
"SONY MASTERWORKS' commitment to creativity without boundaries is beautifully represented in this album which draws on traditional Afro-Cuban influences, sophisticated jazz harmonies and American inspiration, all to a joyful, irresistible beat," states Alex Miller, General Manager and Senior Vice President of SONY MASTERWORKS. "It's wonderful to be part of a project which reminds us all how lucky we are to live a life of creative freedom while acknowledging the influences which make us who we are."
Tiempo Libre's members were teenagers in Cuba during "The Special Period," when the Soviet Union collapsed and its subsequent withdrawal of support to Cuba sent the island into a period of severe deprivation. There was little to eat and listening to American radio was illegal. Though nourished by their Afro-Cuban musical roots and their rigorous Russian-style classical conservatory training, Tiempo Libre's members were desperate to experience music outside the Cuban cultural vacuum. At night, they would secretly take their antennas made from aluminum foil scraps and coat hangers and climb onto their rooftops to catch the bits and pieces of music that could be picked up from Miami's radio stations.
Recalls Tiempo Libre founder and musical director Jorge Gomez: "Up on the rooftop, this forbidden music thrilled us. We could forget how hungry we were, physically and musically. It opened up a whole world for us to hear artists like Michael Jackson, Chaka Kahn and Cuba's own Gloria Estefan. Earth Wind & Fire was also a huge musical inspiration to us. With their Afro-Cuban percussion, hard-hitting brass and danceable rhythms, we thought they were playing a kind of American timba! We didn't realize at the time that virtually no one in America even knew timba existed."
These clandestine radio sessions fueled Tiempo Libre's dreams of living in America, free to play their music and live their lives the way they wanted. This forbidden fruit, carried over the air waves from Miami, gave them sustenance and the fortitude to leave it all - families, friends, a country, a life - behind to pursue those dreams.
"My Secret Radio reflects both sides of the immigrant experience," explains Gomez. "In 'Prende La Radio' and 'Mi Antenna' we speak directly about our 'radio days' in Havana, while in songs like 'Mecanica' we refer to some of the many difficulties one encounters starting from scratch in a completely new country, confronting situations one could never have imagined. 'San Antonio' is our homage to that wonderful city and to the memorable reception we received from San Antonio Spurs three-time NBA champ Bruce Bowen," continues Gomez.
The instrumental jazz track "Aceite" pays tribute to the musical marriage between Dizzy Gillespie and the great Cuban conguero Chano Pozo, which gave birth to Latin Jazz. A departure from the group's hard-driving timba is a ballad called "Como Hace Anos," a slow, soulful, nostalgic song written over a "danzon" rhythm. Featured on the track is the legendary Albita, one of Cuba's all-time great singers, who gave Gomez his first U.S. break. "After the Love is Gone," with vocals in English and Spanish, by Rachelle Fleming and lead singer Joaquin Diaz, is a playful cha-cha-cha take on Earth Wind & Fire's hit by David Foster, Jay Gradon and Bill Champlin.
Childhood friends, Tiempo Libre's members individually fled from Cuba and eventually reunited in Miami where they enjoyed thriving careers performing, touring and recording with such artists as Albita, Cachao and Arturo Sandoval. In their "free time" or Tiempo Libre in Spanish, the seven musicians would come together to realize their collective musical dream of forming the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S. Moving against a tide of predictions that a broad musical audience would not embrace the timba music native to their homeland, they formed their group in 2001. Ten years later, they are universally recognized as the leading creators and performers of timba music outside of Cuba. At a time when many critics feel that timba in Cuba has lost its vitality and creative edge, Tiempo Libre are credited with keeping the tradition fresh and evolving through their unique blend of classical, Afro-Cuban and American influences.
Arguably, no other Cuban timba group has been embraced by as broad and wide an audience as Tiempo Libre. Their extensive tour history includes concerts at prestigious venues around the world including the Hollywood Bowl, Jazz At Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Hong Kong's Kwai Tsing Theatre, Java Jazz Festival, the Athens Festival, Singapore Sun Festival, Henry Crown Hall in Jerusalem and many others. They have performed on The Tonight Show, Dancing with the Stars, numerous shows on Telemundo and Univision, and have received airplay on more than 200 radio stations. Tiempo Libre even achieved the Cuban equivalent of being on a box of Wheaties by having their likeness featured on a million Cafe Bustelo coffee cans throughout the United States.
Tiempo Libre's first recording for SONY MASTERWORKS, Bach in Havana, was nominated for a Grammy award for "Best Tropical Latin Album." The album, a fusion of Bach with Afro-Cuban rhythms featuring guest tracks by Paquito D'Rivera and Yosvany Terry, was released in May, 2009. Latin Jazz Network called the album "a landmark recording in the sense that Miles Davis's Kind of Blue was approximately 50 years ago" and the Miami Herald selected it as a best pick in new Latin music. The group's previous two albums, Arroz Con Mango and Lo Que Esperabas, on the Shanachie label were both nominated for Grammys. The group starred in a musical production, Miami Libre, inspired by its collective immigrant experiences at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center.
Tiempo Libre recorded Gomez' composition "Para Ti" with violin virtuoso Joshua Bell for his album, At Home With Friends, and performed the song with Bell on a Live From Lincoln Center PBS broadcast. In Fall 2008, Tiempo Libre was hand-picked by classical music's celebrity flute player Sir James Galway to arrange and record O'Reilly Street which included an Afro-Cuban take on music from the jazz suites of Claude Bolling.
Reflecting on his journey, Gomez adds: "Through everything, there is not one moment when we take what we have for granted. Every record we make, every concert we play seems like a gift. Even after 10 years, each time we are about to walk on stage, I get a tingling sensation, that thrill that starts at the base of the spine and fills me with euphoria. It's that same thrill I felt up on that roof under the twinkling Havana stars, listening to my secret radio."
Sony Masterworks USA comprises the Masterworks Broadway, Masterworks, Masterworks Jazz, RCA Red Seal and Sony Classical imprints. For email updates and information please visit www.SonyMasterworks.com.
Tiempo Libre upcoming dates include:
Mar 4, 5 - Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts - Naples, FL
Apr 7 - Savannah Music Festival - Savannah, GA
Apr 30 - Oregon Symphony - Portland, OR
May 3 - Alberta Blair Theatre - Billings, MT
May 5 - Ellen Theatre - Bozeman, MT
May 13 - Ross Ragland Theater - Klamath Falls, OR
May 14 - Craterian Performances, Ginger Rogers Theater - Medford, OR
May 20 - Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NY
More Information: http://www.SonyMasterworks.com