Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic

Reviews of Cuban Music on 7th, 2009

roughguidetocuba (Small)

Recent CD Reviews of Cuban and Salsa music by Sue Miller are available on

Amadito Valdes

Bajando Gervasio

[Review] Resistencia

Submitted by charangasue on 3 December, 2008 – 00:24.

Sue Miller reviews Bajando Gervasio, showcasing the talents of Buena Vista Social Club timbale player Amadito Valdes. ‘Bajando Gervasio’ features inventive arrangements and a feast of beautiful solos set against a backdrop of elegant clarity from a tight and ‘timbre-ful’ percussion section….

The timbale player Amadito Valdes, the unsung hero of the Buena Vista Social Club, is profiled here on ‘Bajando Gervasio’, his first solo recording, named after a street in Havana famous for its wealth of music past and present. The arrangements cover Cuban styles from Danzón to Contradanza, Changui-Son, Guaguanco, Bolero, Guajira and Descarga and are full of twists and turns, unexpected breaks and beautiful solos. You have to wait until track three though (‘La Fiesta de Amadito’) for a timbale solo from the maestro himself, although his ensemble playing is full of all the Cuban stylistic patterns and his tasteful embellishments and breaks support the whole band. For those who love the BVSC recordings the ‘call and response’ Son and Descarga tracks are going to delight, with the fiery trombone inspiraciones of Jesus ‘Aguaje’ Ramos and the cool coros of Idania Valdes.

The opening Latin jazz track by Maraca Valle (‘Celine’s Groove’) is followed by a fantastic arrangement by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez that is vey much in the vein of his ‘Habana del Este’ arrangement (from the first Afro-Cuban All Stars album), with its bowed cello and flute dialogue on the Danzón section followed by a Chachachá with a pithy Charanga-style percussive flute solo from veteran BVSC player Polo Tamayo. There’s a Guanguanco for the fans of Cuban Rumba and a wealth of solos for those who like great improvisation (notably Maraca Valle’s flute solo on ‘Bajando Gervasio’, a virtuosic piano solo from David Alfaro on ‘Mamina’ and the ever brilliant soloing of Barbarito Torres on laoud on ‘Achy’s Guajira’). In short this recording is jam-packed with intricate arrangements and solos that are held together by Amadito’s sensitive, timbre-rich, tight timbale playing. A stand out track is ‘Amado Amadito’ by the legendary Paquito d’ Rivera. Emotionally charged it features the dexterous soprano sax of Germán Velazco, with melodies that are really haunting and a sax solo that causes Amadito to exclaim at the end of the track ‘Coño Paquito que lindo mi hermano – muchas gracias!’ Thanks also to Amadito for furnishing us with such an embarrassment of riches as all these tracks have hidden gems within them too numerous to mention here – defintely one for repeated listening.

You can  click the links below to see a further selection of these:

Review of The Rough Guide to Cuban Music

Review of Amadito Valdes Bajando Gervasio

Review of Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall

Review of Madera Limpia La Corona

Review of Omara Potuondo Gracias

Review of an Eliades Ochoa Concert

Review of Putumayo  presents Salsa

Review of Buena Vista Social Club live in Harrogate

Review of Putumayo Presents – Cafe Cubano

Review of La-33 Gozalo

Review of Marco Toro Oido al Tambor