The Cuba-by-way-of-Miami band Tiempo Libre is back with their first album since 2011’s My Secret Radio. Universal Music Latin Entertainment has just released the three-time Grammy-nominated timba group’s latest, Panamericano, a record that’s true to both its genre and predecessors.
Last time we spoke with band leader and founder Jorge Gómez, he described the genre that Tiempo Libre plays: “I like to say that timba is Chick Corea meets Buena Vista Social Club, all played with the virtuosity of a Juilliard School grad. It’s traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms mixed with jazz harmonies, then spiced up according to one’s taste with seasonings of funk, hip-hop, rock, etc. Timba is the most cosmopolitan of Cuban forms…complex, sophisticated, incorporating styles and sounds and textures that come from outside of the island.”
It’s also incredibly playful and fun. The band has released videos for “Dime Que No,” which features Puerto Rican singer Jean Rodriguez, and “Somebody to Love Me” featuring bachata artist Yunel Cruz. In both clips, the band grins like a bunch of ex-Mouseketeers, all the while playing with the unmistakable, unbeatable chops that are synonymous with Cuban musicians. Miami is close to both Cuba and Orlando, it seems.
And just as the songs on Panamericano shift between styles, this autumn Tiempo Libre shifts away from touring life. The band slides into the Winningstad Theater in Portland, OR, in October, where they’ll be playing their own compositions for a “Broadway-scale premiere” of a musical titled Cuba Libre presented by Artists Repertory Theatre. According to this description, the play sounds like it’s right up their alley: “The irresistible rhythms of Cuban music drive this riveting, universal story of a man caught between countries, losses and loves, and his search for freedom. Set in America and Cuba, this timely tale reverberates across politics, ambition and romance with quick-witted dialogue, joy-filled dance and Latin-fusion beats.”
Keep your eye on Afropop’s Twitter feed for photos from Tiempo Libre’s visit to New York.