Angel d'Cuba
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Angel d'Cuba

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band World Latin


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Angel d'Cuba's Heritage is a collection mostly of vivacious South of the Border good-times music and swingin' funky cross-collateralizations upon traditional modes carried forward to New Orleans and elsewhere. However, he's also not one to pass by a good ballad, as Hombre de Color del Barrio and Amor Anonimo attest, but I think it's the exposition of cumbia, samba, timba, and other modes that are going to cause ears to perk up. Though these are styles at once both familiar—thanks to decades of fusionists; gracias, Hermeto!—and exotic, d'Cuba manages to wrangle them to his own vision, which I suspect is why he emigrated to Chi-town. What started in teenaged break-dancing (and, man, was that ever a cool era!) has ended in a constant thirst for hybridizing anything he can lay his hands on. Nonetheless, I'm finding Al Jarreau, Milton Nacimiento, 70s soul, Gato Barbieri, Paquito D'Rivera, ranchero, Scott Martin, and many others in a blend that infects the ears the moment it starts up. Too, the recording is such that it imbues a more naturalistic atmosphere than other CDs boasting antiseptic studio refinement. Much of Heritage sounds completely natural, from a gig somewhere in a Cuban or Brazilian nightclub.

Una Samba de Chicago brings the knowledgeable listener back to the day when Airto Moreira and Flora Purim were getting Los Norte Americanos and others acclimated to the wondrous jungley sounds now bounding across borders—and one of the hippest cats of the time, Lonnie Liston Smith, was quite influenced by the tropical rhythms and ornate percussive, brass, and vocal efflorations as well. Una Samba is a marvel that makes you want to pick up a charango or cuica and join in, a swirling swingin' Mardi Gras type composition sure to fire up happy feet on Saturday night dance floors. When Steve Eisen comes gliding in with his birdflight flute…well, that's the icing on the cake, bub.

Though d'Cuba poses a daunting figure straight out of a Blade movie cut with the smiling pirate cartooned inside the liner, he'll have you head bobbing and finger-snapping in short order indeed, a convert to the cumbia, a gaucho for guaracha, and a soca sweet-stepper. Should you be a denizen of The Windy City, make your way posthaste to wherever the guy's holding court, you owe yourself the good time you're sure to have. And my fave cut of the CD? Juana la Cubana knocks me flat out and then some…and James Cornolo's Ernie Isley guitar playing in various places on the disc is a treat as well.
Track List:

Can't Hide Love
Hombre de Color del Barro
Soñe Con Colombia
Amor Anonimo
Me Sale del Corazón

Una Samba en Chicago
Juana la Cubana
Aché Pa' Ti Caribe
Muchacha de Escuela

All songs written by Angel Luis Badell (Angel d'Cuba)
except Can't Hide Love (Skip Scarborough).

Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution. -

Singer/multi-instrumentalist Angel D’Cuba creates a personal pan-Latin vision on his new disc, Heritage. He’s accustomed to taking liberties: The Havana-born/Chicago based musician had combined traditional and contemporary Cuban music with his pervious group, Mezcla (which, as its name indicated, thrived on mixing stuff up). His new CD shows that his compositions are so sharp, these visits across this hemisphere are more than upbeat forays through a travelogue. While he delivers upbeat salsa from his homeland (“Herencia”), he also adds twists to accordion-driven South American cumbia (“Soñe Con Colombia”), draws on a classic Brazilian sound for a tribute to his adopted hometown (“Una Samba En Chicago”) and includes a couple of slower ballads that highlight his expressive voice. D’Cuba’s locally based group—particularly flutist/saxophonist Steve Eisen and guitarist James Cornolo—comprise the disc’s strong backbone and they will be performing with him at Mayne Stage. -

Angel D’Cuba’s energetic, powerful voice was formerly featured in Mezcla, a flamboyant Cuban supergroup whose tunes were equally divided between classic and contemporary material. D’Cuba’s no less diverse as a solo performer, with his newest release mixing and matching the vintage sounds he heard growing up on the island with songs reflecting the numerous genres he’s heard and often explored since relocating to Chicago. The disc’s most ambitious fare include a whirling salsa piece “Herencia,” and spiraling cumbia piece ”Sone con Colombia.” He turns sentimental on “Amor Anonimo,” which wouldn’t be out of place on adult pop Spanish-language radio. Then there’s “Juana la Cubana,” his venture into the reggaeton sphere. D’Cuba also reconfigures a soul staple with a worthy cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Can’t Hide Love.” The message cut “Una Samba en Chicago” celebrates his past and present connections. Heritage illumimates all the elements that make Angel D’Cuba a Cuban music master. - Artsnash, Nashville, TN


Still working on that hot first release.



Angel d'Cuba has never shied away from dropping everything he can into his music. A native Cuban, Angel came up in a rich musical melange where James Brown and Jackson 5 grooves mixed freely with red--hot Afro-Carribean traditions. And Angel never hesitated to add new flavors--funk, R&B, soca, samba, rock--to this eclectic sonic mix.

Moving to Chicago further expanded Angel's musical palette, as he demonstrates on Heritage (release date: February 5, 2013). Formerly the lead singer of the Cuban supergroup Mezcla, Angel takes on the role of bandleader with Heritage. And he pulls out all the stops, giving shout-outs to Colombia's swaying cumbia (Soe con Colombia), lingering over romantic pop ballads ("Amor Anonimo"), dashing out a reggaeton tale ("Juana la Cubana"), and firing up fierce dance-inducing salsa ("Herencia").

Freely mixing diverse material comes naturally to Angel. For d'Cuba, unity and harmony--in music or among people, as he calls for in "Colorvision"--is a natural extension of Cuba's--and his own--musical past.

I am the fourth generation of musicians in my family, thats why I sing about herencia, about my heritage Angel reflects. The song is summing up all the influences that came into Cuba, all the influences on Cuban music that made it as strong and diverse as it is today.

When I was in Cuba, I had a very clear image about what I could see on the other side of the ocean, I thought it could be different from the difficult environment I faced in Cuba, recalls Angel, who grew up in a very musical family that struggled to make ends meet. Everyone talked about the dreamland that was America. I imagined a child with a new bike and a bunch of cookies and candies. I imagined everyone was happy and no one was fighting.

Along with visions of an easier, sweeter life, American artists--especially James Brown; Michael Jackson; and Earth, Wind, & Fire--inspired Angel. He found himself intuitively mixing their sounds with son, danzn, songo and other musical forms of his parents and uncles. Angels well-honed, open-eared sensibilities boosted his rapid rise to the top of Cubas music scene as front man for the rock and Latin jazz powerhouse Mezcla, whose fans include Carlos Santana and the late Tito Puente.

Yet Angel left it all behind. While touring with the band in Chicago, he fell in love and sacrificed his Cuban stardom to make the Windy City his home. It was a challenging choice, and Angel found himself starting from scratch. I like Chicago, but its been a bit rough, muses Angel. Now its more comfortable, because I have good friends.

Angels friendships have a strong musical side and led to his first Cuban project in his new home. James Cornolo and Brett Benteler, local musicians and newfound friends, wound up playing in a trio that eventually morphed into a full-fledged big band, with bold, bright brass and a blazing Latin percussion section.

Angel did more than find the right backing players however. He passed along his musical heritage to his friends. While playing percussion in a Chicago reggae band, Angel met Cornolo. Cornolo was so taken with Cuban sounds that he resolved to learn the tres, a relative of the guitar and a hallmark of traditional Cuban music.

I was interested in Cuban music but when I saw I had a Cuban star to learn from, I knew I had to go for it, recalls Cornolo. Angel mentored me on the tres, singing parts to me and giving me verbal instructions. I converted a small guitar into a tres because its not easy to find a good instrument in the U.S.

This spirit of inspired ingenuity and eclecticism shines on the tracks of Heritage. Angel rethinks his funk idols Earth, Wind & Fires hit Cant Hide Love, putting the song to a hard-hitting Mozambique beat. Hes just as able to add jazz, soul, or rhythms from Haiti or Trinidad to a Cuban core, as hes eager to salute his current home in creative ways. Angel enlisted the voices of inner-city children from a local El sistema based musical outreach program to add another, sweet dimension to Colorvision and even celebrates the ties that bind him to the city on unexpected tracks like Una Samba en Chicago, sung in Spanish and dedicated to Angels Brazilian friends.

The polyglot, pan-American vibe feels utterly natural to Angel, who has always embraced anything and everything that sounded good. I believe that your actions, over time, become perfection, reflects Angel. Because Ive faced so many challenges since moving here, I made this album.

Band Members