Cuba L.A.

Cuba L.A.

Navidad Cubana

Narada World

I’m a sucker for Christmas tunes, especially when they’re performed as well as they are on Navidad Cubana. These all-instrumental versions of twelve traditional carols draw on a variety of styles — including Latin jazz, chachacha, rumba, and comparsa — to create toe-tapping, butt-shaking arrangements that will put a little extra sass and swing into your holiday gatherings. All were recorded live in the studio by some of the finest Cuban musicians in America, including Danilo Lozano, Harry Kim, and Luis Conte.

On most of the tracks, flute, trumpet, or violin plays the melody, with piano, bass, drums (bongo or conga), and a whole lot of percussion doing the backing. I tended to prefer the tracks that were horn-dominated, such as the incredibly lively version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which has trombone (!) in the lead, backed with a nice horn section and some seriously funky piano and percussion. Cuba L.A.’s “Good King Wenceslas” feels more like a smoking jazz jam session than a Christmas carol, with some incredible piano and trumpet work. On “Silent Night,” upright bass starts off with the melody, which then switches to violin, backed with gentle piano and some fascinating drum rhythms. But for sheer energy and inventive arrangement, “The Little Drummer Boy” takes the cake. Part of the fun is that played, plucked, and saw-scratched violin takes center stage instead of the drums or percussion you might expect, but the rhythm instruments play so fast and furious in back that they more than hold their own against the strings. Feliz Navidad!

Narada, 4650 N. Port Washington Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53212-1063;

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Gary Wittner
    Gary Wittner

    Too Modern for Me. (Invisible Music Records) Review by Stacey Zering.

  • Willard Gayheart & Friends
    Willard Gayheart & Friends

    At Home in the Blue Ridge (Blue Hens Music). Review by Carl F. Gauze.

  • Alex McArtor
    Alex McArtor

    Touch/Are You Alone (Bigmac Records). Review by Stacey Zering.

  • Superstar

    Sex, drugs, adultery, murder and finally, redemption – it’s all intertwined in the tale of Trent Davis, the “star” of author Christopher Long‘s latest, Superstar.

  • Moloko Plus
    Moloko Plus

    Moloko Plus is a monthly experimental music event in Orlando, Florida.

  • General Magic
    General Magic

    General Magic invented the smart phone in 2002, but just couldn’t get it to market. That’s just how they rolled.

  • Blue October
    Blue October

    Alternative 90s rockers Blue October rolled into Central Florida for a two-night run at House of Blues, and Michelle Wilson was blown away.

  • Pahokee

    Pahokee produces sugar cane and poverty, but some the brighter students might make it to the big time with a college degree and a new zip code.

  • Sumo Princess
    Sumo Princess

    When An Electric Storm. (Educational Recordings) Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Laura Valle
    Laura Valle

    Charismatic. Review by Stacey Zering.

From the Archives