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Band Latin Jazz


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"Yusa at Ronnie Scott's"

She may have been born in the Havana suburb of Buana Vista, but Yusa has little in Common with the venerable and now elderly stars of the Social Club who have done so much to populirise Cuban music. Promoted as "Cuba't newest flame", she has musical intersts that strech far beyond her own island's heritage. Her songs are influenced by anything from jazz and western pop through to Brazil styles, and those unaware of he background could be forgiven for assuming that she was part of the new wave of experimental Brazilian singer-songwriters.

The eclectic approach has already paid off. IN the US, where she has been compared to Joni Mitchell, Cassandra Wilson and Brazilian stars such as Carlinhos Brown, she was nominated in two categories at last month's BBC world music awards, and earlier this month she appeared at the Festival Hall, performing solo, alogside two other nominees, Susana Baca and Lila Downs.

Now at Ronie Scott's, she had the chance to show what she could do with her own band behind her. The result was an odd, patchy evening in which she eventually showed why she is so interesting.

Together they began to dissect her songs and take an almost perverse delight in constantly changing styles, often several times within the same piece.

There was certainly veriety here, ranging form lounge piano to cool balladry, jazzy saxophone solos or bursts of frantic Latin funk.

Yusa proved herself to be an excellent instrumentalist as she shifted from acoustic guitar ti electric bass and then to piano.

She deserved the applause a she walked out through the room in triumph.
- The Guardian

"Yusa: album review"

(...)It's more that she draws her influences from all over trhe American continent and wears them proudly to produce bright, soulful, cnotemporary CUban music with intelligent arrangements, excellent lyrics and an international flavour.

Like a vocally dexterous Tracy Chapman with a large jazz collection, her songs display a definite melancholic tinge, nicely leavened by her Brazilian and Cuban influences. (...)

She displays a yen for striking organic funk music (...) and sweet Latin soul. And she has a splendid facility for reworking more traditional Latin music forms in songs like "A las doce" and "La partida", incorporating elements of Cuban vocal music and bossa nova with choirs and high-velocity acoustic guitar. The horn arrangements are striking, the sound modern and soulful.

(...) Yusa has shaken up "son" and "filin" to make something distinctively Cuban but proudly international. An excellent, sophisticated, debut. - BBC World

"Remarkably accomplished and ecclectic music from a Cuban star in the making"

Yusa and her young Cuban band came of age when the gaps in the sugar-cane curtain were already wide enough to allow in all kinds of outside musical influences. They also benefited from the conservatoire qualifications needed to become a performing musician in Cuba. So these technically faultless players have an exceptional range of music at their fingertips (...) as well as the techniques needed to transform their musical ideas into reality.

(...) Yusa's lyrics reveal a mature poet grappling with thoughts on love, often set in Havana locations, which are painted, musically, through car horns, ocean waves and children's voices. (...)

The rich sultriness of Yusa's luscious voice allies her with Brazil's new samba singers, but has also led to comparisons with Tracy Chapman, while her harmonic explorations conjure Cassandra Wilson. The singer recently earned a latin Grammy nomination, guaranteeing her a rightful place in the new Latin music landscape.
- Songlines


'Yusa' (Tumi112) CD
'Breathe' (Tumi131) CD
'Live at Ronnie Scotts' (TumiDVD800) DVD

Soon to be release:
'Haiku' (Tumi143) CD



Yusa is living proof that not everyone in Cuba is making music like their grandaddy! Yes, of course there are urban echoes of classic trova songs, but it's offshoots like bolero and notably 'filin' that inform this true voice of the 21st century whose songs break down the labels usually imposed on the island's music. As a modern troubadour Yusa, like others in her peer group, is as influenced by Spanish and North American pop and jazz as by 'nueva trova' and son. After all Yusa grew up with her ear stimulated by everything Cuba had to offer as well as a legion of international musicians including Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea and Jaco Pastorius. And sheÕs of a generation whose musical world owes as much to their contemporaries in Brazil Ð Lenine, Chico Science, Chico Cesar, Carlinhos Brown Ð as to anything home grown.
Born in the Buena Vista district of today's Playa and growing up in the modern Alamar housing community of east Havana, Yusa's childhood was spent between music and the sea, cherished by her economist mother and her sailor father whose eyes always have, 'the gaze of the sea in them'.

Yusa started with guitar, went on to Cuban tres guitar, taking piano and bass in her stride. What inspires this debut disc are vital creative years spent jamming in the hallways and classrooms of the Amadeo Rold‡n Conservatory exchanging musical ideas with contemporaries such as Roberto Carcasses, who is now the arranger of many of the songs on this disc. Then there's Yusa's time improvising female quintet Quasi-Jazz at that crucible of Cuban music, 'El Zorro y el Cuervo', the basement night club on Havana's central La Rampa street which has been at the cutting edge of Cuban jazz since the early 20th century.
A key phenomena of 1990s Cuba was the emergence of contemporary duos revitalising in totally unexpected ways the older fashion of singing two part harmony with guitar. In the same way as Gema and Pavel had before them, Yusa and Domingo made waves among their urban milieu in the small corner bars and neighbourhood clubs where for centuries new Cuban musics have always been dreamed up.

Yusa and her musical accomplices recorded in the late nights and early mornings of a sweltering Cuban winter in the big old house of Vedado's Once (11) street. Here in the intimate atmosphere of singer-songwriter Pablo Milanes' studios, with a couple of tracks in the Amadeo Roldán Theatre, they have created a disc which breaks boundaries.
Producer Pavel's frames certain pieces with 'found sounds' from percussive traffic to trains, camera clicks to children's cries, music box melodies to the crash of sea waves for Yusa's call to Yemayá, the Cuban 'Orisha' Goddess of the sea, texturing captured moments. The enigmas of Yusa's bitter-sweet lyrics are realised in a music full of simplicity and sophistication as befits modern Cuba.