Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic

Review of Sierra Maestra’s Cd Sonando YaMarch 25th, 2010

Sierra Maestra
Sonando Ya

[Review] World Village

Submitted by Jill Turner on 24 March, 2010 – 00:16.

Sue Miller:revels in the new additions to the son repetoire found in Sierra Maestra’s new album Sonando Ya. ‘Asi se toca el son’ – this is how to play Cuban son – clear, crisp, colourful and elegant with warm harmonised vocals and exquisitely melodic trumpet lines – these guys really know their roots….

‘Sonando Ya’ is an album of new original songs by Sierra Maestra and whilst the classic son numbers are absent from this recording the trumpet quotations and vocals reference all the greats of Cuban son and rumba such as Felix Chappottín, Benny Moré, Chano Pozo and Arseñio Rodriguez. The second track ‘Un Toque de Bembé’ reminds me a little of the classic ‘El Guajiro de Cunagua’ in the open montuno section, which I think the tres player Emilio Ramos quotes in his succinct, bright tres solo.

Following on we have a catchy son with the coro ‘Pillin porque, porque me guardas rencor?’ (Pillin why do you bear me a grudge?) which has a great bongos solo from the aptly named Eduardo Rico (tasty!). The theme of contemporary lyrics continue in ‘La mulata presumida’ which tells the story of a guy bled dry by a beautiful ‘material mulata’ living in her material world where expensive meals and holidays in Varadero are the only things on her mind. The trumpet improvisations from Yelfris Valdés are humorous on this one, quoting the coro ‘la fuente se rompio’ which means ‘the well is dry’ as the singer complains of having spent all his money trying to please this girl. The press release for this album explains that the band wanted to do son with more up-to-date lyrics and this number in particular reflects the Cuba of today rather than that of the 1940s and 50s (the heyday of Cuban son when many classic songs were written).

All the arrangements are executed well and the stand out for me was the trumpet solos by Yelfris Valdés. The track ‘Juan Andres’, with its tres ‘changui’ feel is really uplifting and the album ends with a playful tongue twister ‘A ti no te sale’. This is good solid son music finely played – my only hope is that when I go to see them live soon they mix their covers of Cuban classics with these new additions to the son repertoire.

Sue Miller, Leeds March 2010