Recorded at Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Academy of Music, Cubanero is the scintillating debut album from Cuban trumpeter Yulievsky González, who began his studies at the Music Conservatory of Camagüey and formed his first band, a brass quintet, while doing national service in the army. After moving to Berlin by way of Paris, in 2010 he connected with the Berlin Big Band and in 2015 joined Denmark’s Antonelli Orchestra. Since then he has performed internationally, also forming salsa band Cubanaché along the way.
In 2011 he assembled Afro-Cuban jazz outfit Kind of Cuban, which accompanies him here. It features guitarist Bjarne Roupé (Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie) and saxophonist Tomas Franck (David Sanborn, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen). Cubanero comprises eight original tunes, five written by González and one each by Scandi members Franck and Roupé and German pianist Norman Peplow.
The tone of the album is set by the opener, Very Nice, a classy, brass-laden Latin workout which boasts feisty solos from Franck, Peplow and the principal, while allowing percussion maestro Isan Torres to shine towards the close. Roupé comes into his own on Reflections after a breathless bongo introduction, his muted guitar runs sandwiching Franck’s baritone sax turn, before González’s at-times squeaky trumpet winds things up. Santísimo starts on a gentle, dreamy horn before breaking into a fast, danceable Latin number with percussion to the fore and a gruff vocal interjection from González, while Peplow’s En Cada Amanecer is slower throughout, also starting on delicate trumpet notes against some attractive, subdued piano, after which Gonzáles returns to make the piece his own.
Franck’s low-key Love Theme From A Dream uses repeating piano minor chords as an underlay for some wonderful, understated horn work, with Peplow and Franck taking equally laid-back turns; simply lovely, this is the best cut here. Bjarne Roupé’s mid-tempo Miles Across opens on clear, climbing trumpet notes against choppy percussion, before the guitarist executes some effortless improvisational runs, leading into more glorious trumpet action to the finish. The album closes on the frantic, multi-layered brass, mad percussion, busy guitar and energetic vocals of Timba Berlin-Habana. Special mention goes to Martin Mattuck’s attentive electric bass runs.
To sum up, this is a great set. González’s writing and playing and that of his fellows is of the highest standard, successfully melding Afro-Cuban and European classical elements to produce a by turns exciting, relaxing and overall very satisfying addition to the Afro-Cuban music pantheon. No wonder he’s laughing by the end.
Very Nice; Reflections; Santísimo; En Cada Amanecer; Love Theme From a Dream; ’Cause I Love You; Miles Across; Timba Berlin-Habana (55.05)
González (tpt, fgh, v on 3, 8); Tomas Franck (s); Bjarne Roupé (g); Norman Peplow (p); Martin Mattuck (b); Wiljoph “Bebo” Mounkassa (d); Isan Torres, Leonid Muñoz, Yohan Ramón Cajón, Carlos Guillén, Tony Moreaux (pc); Yaremi Kordos, Tony Rafael, Nando del Rio (ch). Copenhagen, Denmark, 2020.
One World Records YGCV2020