Roberto Fonesca "Hot at Scott's"

< Back

Thursday July 18, 2013

From Jazzwise Magazine

Jazz breaking news: Roberto Fonseca hot at Scott’s
By: Matthew Wright

It was the warmest night of the year so far, when the heat hung still in the air, every Soho crevice melting in the furnace, and Ronnie Scott’s excellent air conditioning gave one more reason to confirm it as the coolest spot in town. Thus it was the perfect occasion to enjoy the equally heated Afro-Cuban jazz vibes of pianist Roberto Fonseca. Schooled in the unmistakeable rhythms of Cuban music, first at exclusive Havana academy the Instituto Superior de Arte, then as a player with the Buena Vista Social Club, Fonseca, still in his thirties, has been performing on the Cuban jazz scene for 20 years. His style, initially a funky infusion of Cuban rhythms and Herbie Hancock, has over the last decade been accumulating more diverse accents, especially from West Africa, so that it now has foundations in Havana, New York, and Mali, with a seasoning of blues, rap, and Gnawa (traditional Moroccan spiritual music). His players are all Cuban except for Malian kora player Sekuo Kouyate, but they adapted expertly to Fonseca’s smartly shifting moods. Where some bandleaders will switch key or rhythm mid-track, Fonseca switches continents.

The programme was mainly a reprise of his 2012 album Yo (‘I’ in Spanish), without the vocals. His own contribution was always key, whether on piano ‘” by turns lyrically bluesy and funkily percussive ‘” synthesiser, singing or playing samples. His piano lays down a Hancockesque funk line against drummer Ramsés Rodríguez’ virtuosic, polyrhythmic battery in the opening of ‘80s’. On ‘Bibisa’, Kouyate’s kora, with a sound somewhere between harp and guitar, offered a beautifully ethereal and effectively contrasting tone to the streetwise talk of the keyboard and drums, funk piano and drums superbly balanced by its innocence and delicacy. Joel Hierrezuelo on Cuban percussion turned out also to excel as a moody singer, while Yandy Martínez, a fine if mostly discreet bass guitarist for most of the set, took an occasional turn, most prominently on ‘Quien Soy Yo’ (Who am I? Or Who I am) skillfully slapping Latin rhythms on double bass. Fonseca’s samples, either of choral singing, or urban street sounds, were used simply but always effectively to add atmosphere.

To read more click here