REVIEW BY BRUCE POLIN AT DESCARGA.COM
Boom! With the opening track "Ariñañara" you know something special is going on. The song is familiar - a classic done by everyone from Tito Puente to Fruko, and signature tune for Joe Cuba. But man has this been timba-fied or what? Track-by-track, Netherlands based band-leader and master percussionist Nils Fischer has brought these already great tracks onto a new level, one of intensity and sparkling swing. What a great idea: Take classic Joe Cuba tracks like "Ariñañara," "El Hueso," "Guaracha Y Bembé," and "Tremendo Coco," pump them up with high-octane timba-powered arrangements, and add red hot musicians like percussionists Gerardo Rosales and José "Pepe" Espinosa, trumpeter Brian Lynch, trombonist Alberto "Molote" Muñoz, Cuban bassist Alain Perez and vocalists Fabian Nodarse "Huracán," Nando Vanin and Alberto Caicedo. What you're left with is one of the most exciting projects of the year: Joe Cuba like you've never heard before. Turning old-school on it's head - there's a lot of fertile ground there, touched upon recently by Las Estrellas De Envidia. If, like me, you loved their Homenaje A Fania, you better grab this one, but fast. With liner notes by George Rivera and Rebeca Mauleón, as well as comments by Orestes Vilató, Bobby Sanabria, Armando Peraza and Joe Cuba himself. It's a remarkable debut CD by Mr. Fischer, and a BIG DJ Alert. Easily one of the best releases of 2007: Very Highly Recommended. (BP)
Being a longtime member of the critically acclaimed bands Nueva Manteca and the Cubop City Big Band, well-known percussionist Nils Fischer had the honor to perform with some stars of Latin music, among them Pio Leiva, Armando Peraza, Paquito D'Rivera, Giovanni Hidalgo, Chocolate Armenteros, Michel Camilo and Orestes Vilató.
Now - on his first CD as a leader, ¡GRACIAS JOE CUBA! - Fischer put together an international all-star cast - including 2007 Grammy winner Brian Lynch, former Issac Delgado bassist Alain Pérez, and Cuba's timbal genius Pepe Espinosa and the very best of Europe’s Latin musicians like Lucas van Merwijk, Leslie Lopez and Gerardo Rosales. The classic Joe Cuba vibraphone sound is enhanced with a tight six piece horn section and three very talented singers: Alberto Caicedo, Nando Vanin and Fabian Nodarse. The exuberant arrangements of 16 of Cuba's songs are made by Alain Pérez, Hollands top Latin arranger Marc Bischoff and Nueva Manteca's Jan Hartong. To top it off, legendary recording engineer and multiple Grammy Award winner Jon Fausty lent his superb touch to the post-production in another exquisite mix and mastering job.
Recorded in Spain and the Netherlands.
Mixed/mastered by Grammy Award Winning Engineer Jon Fausty in Tampa, Florida
Please visit Nils' website www.nilsfischer.com for additional information.
"I enjoy Nils' recording very much, and I already have listened to the recording a lot. I like the unique and very interesting concept! Many bands nowadays just copy the old stuff but Nils and his musicians have really created something new. Nils' conga playing is great! People should hear this. Congratulations, Nils - ¡Que Chévere!"
Joe Cuba, New York City
"Nils Fischer, one of the most important percussionists in Holland, has exploded as a leader with this 1st CD which feels like his 20th CD as a leader. This has to be one of the top recordings of the year!"
Ralph Irizarry, New York City
"You are not only very musical but you also know what you are doing, and your new album proves that. The music is very organized, very authentic and very, very good. You should be proud of yourself!"
Armando Peraza, San Mateo - California
"On this heartfelt tribute, Nils takes things up a notch enhancing the classic Joe Cuba vibe sound by adding horns and making the rhythm section even more explosive with his great playing and musical direction. Mambo with a touch of jazz is still the hippest dance music around and I'm glad musicians like Nils are here to remind us of that. Bravo mi hermano!!!"
Bobby Sanabria, New York City
"Nils is at the forefront of keeping the tradition of the tumbadora alive and well in Europe. Anchored by his solid playing, ¡Gracias Joe Cuba! swings like crazy!"
John Santos, San Francisco - California
"¡Gracias Joe Cuba! is a testament to the power music has to reach every corner of the globe; with this truly international effort, Nils Fischer will garner the respect of dancers and musicians alike, and keep them asking for more!"
Rebeca Mauleón, San Francisco – California
“Nils, you are blessed with this great album dedicated to Joe Cuba. Great job, modern arrangements...should sell well! Best of luck, keep up the great work. God bless.”
Eddie Montalvo, New York City
“¡Gracias Joe Cuba! covers sixteen tunes from the sextet’s repertoire, and the band shines throughout the entire project. What Nils Fischer & Timbazo have done here is sure to capture the attention of the listener, as well as the dancer in you. I’m sure that after the first time you listen, your reaction will be the same as mine: ¡Gracias Joe Cuba, y a ti también Nils! ¡Sabroso!
George Rivera, Tampa - Florida
"I had the pleasure of playing with Nils and I think he is a great all-round player, lots of swing and energy all the time!"
Orestes Vilató, Martinez - California
“This record is special and needs to be listened by everybody. In my opinion the match between the forceful punch of the percussion tracks and the melodic intention of the brass combined with the contrapuntal writing makes a surprising listening experience. Hope you get to hear it soon...”
Jon Fausty, Tampa – Florida
At the end of the 1980's my local recordshop introduced the Compact Disc. All vinyl records were dumped so cheaply that I borrowed some money and I bought all those records - ending up with maybe 100 salsa records at home.
My parents: "What the hell are you going to do with all those records (and the other 50 records you just brought from Cuba)?" Well - I enjoyed them so much that I ended up listening to them all day, often playing along.
Among these records of the Palmieri's, Irakere, Puente, Rumbavana, Fania Allstars, Mongo Santamaria, Emiliano Salvador, Rubén Blades, Sonora Ponceña, Grupo Proyecto, Ritmo Oriental and many others was a Joe Cuba record - "Diggin' the most". Four of the songs on this CD are from that album. The others are from the records "Steppin' out", "Comin' At You" and "Estamos Haciendo Algo Bien". What really affects me about Joe Cuba's music that it is very passionate and directly from the heart. I haven't been around in NYC in the sixties, but when I put on a record of Joe Cuba I can feel the hype the band created. When I spoke to Joe Cuba he told me this:
"Man, it was really fun to knock out all those audiences night after night with a just a small band."
However, as much as I love the originals I felt that I had to put in my own vision as well, so I decided to ask Alain, Marc and Jan to arrange most of the songs in a modern way. Let's say, we added brass to the sextet concept...and I love Latin Jazz, Rumba, Salsa, and Timba...so that's what I asked them to include in their arrangements. They did an amazing job just like all the superb musicians did. Every single one of them is fantastic, of the "if you call him it will turn out great anyway" category.
Nils Fischer (Germany)- congas, bongó & campana, guiro, chekere, clave, quinto, djembe, cajón
Pepe Espinosa (Cuba)- timbales set
Lucas van Merwijk (The Netherlands) - timbales set
Liber Torriente (Cuba) - timbales set
Gerardo Rosales (Venezuela) - maracas, bongó & campana
Eduardo Alfonso (Cuba) - güiro
Marc Bischoff (Germany) - grand piano
Jan Laurens Hartong (The Netherlands) - grand piano
Leslie Lopez (Puerto Rico)- electric bass
Alain Pérez (Cuba) - baby bass, electric bass
Fabian Nodarse "Huracán" (Cuba) - singer, coro
Nando Vanin (Colombia) - singer, coro
Alberto Caicedo (Colombia) - singer, coro
Brian Lynch (USA) - trumpet (soloist)
Joe Rivera (Puerto Rico) - 1. trumpet
Nico Schepers (Belgium)- 2. trumpet
Alberto "Molote" Muñoz (Cuba) - trombone (soloist)
David Rothschild (USA)- 1.trombone, 3rd trombone in "Lo Bueno ya Viene"
Santiago Castañeda (Spain) - 2. trombone
Bart Platteau (Belgium) - vibraphone, flute
Gerrit Jan Binkhorst (The Netherlands) - baritone sax
Christof Knoche (USA)- alto sax
Liner notes by George Rivera
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow coined the phrase, “Music is the universal language of mankind”, back in the 19th century. Perhaps he arrived at this conclusion due to his travels around the world. Between 1826 and 1835 he traveled extensively through Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, studying the language, and literature of each country he visited. Whatever his rationale, one thing is for sure, the language of music is universal. Or is it? One can make the claim that Afro-Cuban based music is not easily accessible to all musicians due to its polyrhythmic nature, and the rhythmic concept known as clave.
Much has been said about the relationship of the clave to the instrumentation, arrangements and compositions of this specific genre of music, but that is the subject for another place and time. The most important fact is that without this rhythmic two bar pattern, there is no swing. Like the blood that flows through our veins, the clave is the pulse of this music. And, as all things folkloric, it’s a natural for those who come from within that environment, and not so easily accessible to those not from within the tradition.
Every once in a while a foreigner comes along and captures the attention of the Afro-Cuban aficionado because of the level of swing being presented. This has been the case with Japan’s Orquesta de la Luz and Holland’s Nueva Manteca. Both of these bands attained wide recognition and acceptance because of the level of authenticity of the music they presented. And now it’s my pleasure to introduce you, the listener, to Nils Fischer and Timbazo.
Nils, a highly regarded percussionist, is of German descent. His love for this music began when his sister brought home a recording of Paquito D’Rivera, which featured the conguero, Daniel Ponce. As Nils has put it, this recording would change his life. From then on he would concentrate his musical training, which at the time was in piano, on playing percussion.
A graduate of the Rotterdam Conservatory, Nils has also studied in Cuba, Brazil, and Puerto Rico, where in 2003 ironically he would find himself playing with Paquito D’Rivera at the Heineken Jazz Festival twenty years after first hearing that recording featuring Ponce. Since then he has settled in Holland, where in 1992 he was invited to join Nueva Manteca, the critically acclaimed band from Holland. As a result of his association with Nueva Manteca he would go on to play with many other European based groups and quite a few luminaries from the Latin music world.
Nils came across Diggin’ The Most by the Joe Cuba Sextet when he was in his teens. The band’s repertoire caught his attention and sparked a fire in him that would eventually lead to this recording. In his opinion the band’s sound was unique in that it utilized only a rhythm section enhanced by the vibraphone. Add to this mix the voice of José “Cheo” Feliciano, and what you got was truly a classic sound in the making that was swinging. In tribute to the sextet he set out to capture their sound enhancing it with a brass section. He called on Holland’s top Latin music arranger, Marc Bischoff, along with Alain Pérez and Jan Laurens Hartong to arrange the music for this project. The outcome far exceeded his expectations, in my opinion.
¡Gracias Joe Cuba! covers sixteen tunes from the sextet’s repertoire, and the band shines throughout the entire project. The tunes are approached respectfully, and the added brass section is arranged in such a manner that the band never overplays, but enhances the concept of the originals. The repertoire comes alive with stellar performances from Fischer, Bischoff, José “Pepe” Espinosa, Alain Pérez, Lucas van Merwijk, and special invited guest trumpeter, Brian Lynch. What Nils Fischer and Timbazo have done here is sure to capture the attention of the listener, as well as the dancer in you. This is a project that I am sure will be greatly appreciated by Sonny, Jimmy, Nick, Slim, Tommy, Willie and Cheo, the originators of the Sextet, as well as by all those other individuals that contributed to the Joe Cuba Sextet sound. I’m sure that after the first time you listen, your reaction will be the same as mine: ¡Gracias Joe Cuba, y a ti también Nils! ¡Sabroso!
Liner notes by Rebeca Mauleón
With this brilliantly conceived and performed tribute to one of Salsa’s unsung heroes – Joe Cuba – percussionist Nils Fischer not only displays his absolute command of the genre, he gives us all of the energy and intensity one could ask for in a highly danceable and musically compelling debut album.
Each and every track explodes with fire, and showcases the enormous talent that lies on European shores. Featured trumpeter and Eddie Palmieri veteran Brian Lynch, lends his powerful punch to several tunes, and Nueva Manteca's pianist and musical director/arranger Jan Hartong brings grace and elegance to his take on the Latin Jazz-infused “Llegué.”
Fischer’s conga-playing is crisp and exuberant, and works spot-on with the all-star cast, including former Issac Delgado bassist Alaín Pérez, whose in-your-face playing and arranging get you out of your seat in a heartbeat. Another force to be reckoned with is the monstrously talented pianist and arranger Marc Bischoff, who combines his impeccable technique with his thorough love of timba-infused grooves on several cuts on the album.
The selection of tunes ranges from old-school to modern, yet there is a unifying force behind the album that demonstrates Fischer’s sense of rhythmic joy – he is having a blast, and so is every single musician on the date! To top it off, legendary recording engineer Jon Fausty lends his superb touch to the post-production in another exquisite mix and mastering job.
¡Gracias Joe Cuba! is a testament to the power music has to reach every corner of the globe; with this truly international effort, Nils Fischer will garner the respect of dancers and musicians alike, and keep them asking for more!