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Live in New York: Roberto Fonseca

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Friday September 20, 2013

From New York Daily News

Live in New York: Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca
By Jim Farber

Roberto Fonseca opens his new album on the attack. In a cut called “’80s,” the acclaimed Cuban jazz musician races over his keyboard, firing it with the percussive flair of ’70s jazz-fusion. Munir Hossn’s electric guitar mirrors his aggression, but it’s the beats of percussionist Baba Sissoko that tip off the CD’s main motif.

The album — named “Yo,” or “I” in Spanish — aims to connect Fonseca’s Cuban roots to some of its African precursors. “Bibisa,” written by Sissoko, features spiraling vocals from one of Mali’s most glorious young singers, Fatoumata Diawara. That track, and several others, boast the flinty and glistening work of Guinea’s celebrated kora player Sekou Kouyate.
The CD has plenty of high-energy rhythms, especially the dizzyingly brisk “Chabani.” The force makes sense, given Fonseca’s upbringing. The Havana-born star started as a percussionist before switching to jazz piano. In a 20-year career, he has performed extensively with members of the Buena Vista Social Club, as well as with star musicians from America and Africa.

The new album showcases Fonseca’s more contemplative side in pieces like the classically-influenced “Mi Negra Ave Maria,” which features a spoken-word overlay. “Quien Soy Yo” broadens things further by including a Portuguese cavaquinho, cousin to the ukulele. Fonseca then offers a bit of electronica in “Rachel,” casting a wide sonic net while still keeping things focused on his fierce and dexterous keys.

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