If your mom is one of those ladies that likes to shuffle around the house cleaning to old salsa classics, blasting her favorite jams at all ungodly, congo clanking Caribbean-calling levels, then Angel d’Cuba‘s new album, Heritage is definitely for you. Angel Luis Badell aka Angel d’Cuba is a Chicago mainstay. His notoriety as lead singer for Latin-rock and Latin-jazz staple, Mezcla caught the attention of Latin greats like Tito Fuentes and Carlos Santana.
In Angel’s off shoot as band leader of this self-titled project we see him orchestrating a team of hand picked musicians garnering fame much farther than the Cook County limits. Hailing from Cuba originally, Angel made Chicago his home and brought his unique blend of Afro-tropical sounds to our windy city. For that we are grateful, but for the music, we are eternally blessed.
On Heritage, we hear an eclectic mix of soulful, light-rock ballads on “Amor anonimo” and Columbian-cumbia on “Soñe con Colombia.” Angel even gives us a reggaeton tale on “Juana la Cubana” as he raps like a beat poet over killer keyboard and a simple beat. The title track “Herencia” briefly sounds like an homage to La Sonora Matancera. “Hombre de color de barrio,” starts out like a latin-jazz rendition of a Kenny G and trails into something fresh and inviting for the finish.
Now, I have to admit this definitely isn’t my type of music. It’s more the type of things I’d endure to appease my mother, but by the time you get the Brazilian whistles on “Una samba en Chicago,” even this born sceptic has to left the airs of modernity and just tap a foot along to the rhythm. This is the kind of album that takes you back to a simple place and a simple sound. Pleasant, uplifting, unfettered by the complexities or urgencies of pressing newness. I’ve always been a fan of trumpets, and it’s probably the only reason my jazz-inclined ear even listens to Latin-American jazz at all, although I sometimes feel bogged down by the constantly floating and energized beats.
There’s plenty of trumpets here. This album floats between genres in away the keeps you engaged. Not only does the bilingual switch between English and Spanish, seamlessly fill the ear with an infused sense of place outside of place, but “Colorvision” could easily pass as a Stevie Wonder song, chid chorus and all. The final track, “Aché pa’ ti Caribe” is a full on 90’s street party. This album is a parade of Cuban and international importance. Angel d”Cuba unifies sounds, like the Latin-Earth, Wind and Fire.