Enja 9499-2
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The name Roberto Fonseca should ring a bell with all who enjoyed the music of the Buena Vista Social Club. The young Cuban pianist toured with the Club and was also the support pianist for the great and late Rubén Gonzáles. Now he has released a solo recording and it's one of the best issues of 2007 already. It took the pianist a couple of years to mature his concept and the results are truly awesome. Contrary to what you might expect from an Afro-Cuban pianist who worked so much with the great performers of that style, Roberto Fonseca has gone a big step beyond.

On Zamazu, he superbly blends more traditional Cuban styles with Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies. The opening track is a fragment of the "Misa Popular" sung by his mother Mercedes Cortes Alfaro, the same to whom the second track is dedicated. Here wonderful recording and mastering quality are evident - no compression and a wide dynamic range. It is possible! Most songs are very lyrical and the influence of Brazilian producer Alé Siquiera is subtle but notable.

"Clandestino" is an ear catcher. Hints of Al di Meola's World Symphony come through though here it is far less overproduced. The piano covers the full register and Javier Zalba's soprano sax jubilates like the voice of an angel. Over 20 musicians were in invited to help make Zamazu what it became. All of these musicians are playing acoustic instruments and their rich varieties make every track into a jewel. Simply put, Roberto Fonseca never had to forsake an artistic inspiration for lack of a specific instrument's timbre. He could add a saxophone, darbuka, pailas, clarinet, flamenco guitar, violins or trumpet whenever needed.

"Congo Arabe" is the culmination of Zamazu's musical styles and brings Turkey to Cuba and vice versa. A sparsely overblown soprano sax, an almost mad Balkan sub rhythm and then the guitar of Vicente Amigo segue calmly into the setting before the storm is unleashed with Turkish darbuka drum, piano and sax which pick up the melody after which the piano's open strings finish off in the low register. The album is very consistent in quality and all the composition share the same spiritual charge and passion to make this a highly commendable CD of beautiful music that's been recorded and mastered with a heart. That deserves an award!