A different social club: Aaron Singer's Cuban Masters Ensemble.

Author:Tamargo, Luis


A native of Brooklyn (New York) and current resident of Burbank (Southern California), the percussionist/composer Aaron Singer studied at the Berklee School of Music (bis former classmates include such illustrious figures as Claudio Roditi, Justo Almario, and Abraham Laboriel), but he eventually chose to become a very well-paid district attorney (as opposed to becoming another full-time starving artist). Upon retiring from the Los Angeles Superior Court system, Singer decided to pursue, in a permanent and consistent manner, what he describes as his "long love affair with traditional and modern popular Cuban music," resulting in the recording of the marvelous CD Del Pasado al Presente (The Past Meets The Present) at Havana's ICAIC Studios, where he congregated many of Cuba's older and younger musicians into the "Cuban Masters Ensemble."

In addition to some of today's greatest Cuban singers (Cubop legend Bobby Carcasses, Aragon survivor Ernesto Bacallao, contemporary son icons Pedro "El Nene" Lugo and Sixto "El Indio" Llorente), the final product is enriched with a cross-section of Cuba's leading practitioners on every instrumental category: percussionist Jose Luis Quintana (Changuito), tresero Pancho Amat, violinist Dagoberto Gonzalez, etc.

The mostly original repertoire ranges from melodic danzon-cha to vibrant pachanga to innovative guajira to refined guaguanco to jazzy Cuban jato to delightful chachacha, among other things. As Singer explains it: "The past meets the present, older and younger musicians all coming together. Tbat's why I call it Del Pasado al Presente." The following dialogue, recorded in the midst of the Mohave Desert (during Singer's most recent expedition to Sin City) illustrates why I regarded the aforesaid Hebrew babalao as a "cubiche honorario" (honorary Cuban) ...

Luis Tamargo: The talented rumba singer Ernesto "Gato" Gatell played an important role in this project, as he hooked you up with some of the top artists in Havana.

Aaron Singer: That's right. And if you didn't know the rest, El Matador (Septeto Nacional's bongocero) had their phone numbers.

LT: You were backed by most of the members of Orquesta Aragon, the greatest charanga of all time.

AS: Yes, that's true. They're just short of one violin, a viola, and a guiro player ... These musicians took their roles so seriously, they were so concerned...

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