Picture the sterotypical aging Cuban man: jolly, with perfectly white skinny moustache contrasting skin colored with years of island living, in a crisp white suit and a tailored white hat. Pepesito Reyes is that picturesque man, perched behind his piano like a conjured image more than a real person. But Reyes isn’t just real, he’s a legend. He made the pilgrimage many Cubans made in the 1920s, from Havana to New York. Playing elegant dance music (dazon), which wasn’t always the most popular, Reyes had a circuit of various small clubs he frequented, and despite the general public’s indifference to his music, the clubgoers couldn’t get enough of him. He landed a ten-year residency at New York’s very own Cafe Metropolis in result to the uproar about his talented performances. In this time, he played for Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington, among others. Ellington took such a liking to Reyes that he played with him on numerous occasions. In the 1940s, Reyes was mixing American jazz with Cuban rhythm, and the city went wild. When you hear Reyes play, the class and skill in which the music is brought to life is so amazing. Even though he has been in music for a vast majority of his life, his self-titled Narada release is the first in America. His most famous work as of yet, the piano line for “La Guantanamera” is included, as well as “Miami Me Gusto,” which is featured on the Putumayo Records compilation Cuba. A few other not-to-miss tracks: “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” which is a jazzy, swing song (“My baby don’t care for shows/My baby don’t care for clothes/My baby just cares for me”), the spicy “Bodas De Oro,” and “Descarga Pepesito” which reinforces that Cuba really is an island. Excellent for any fan of Cuban music – an essential.
Narada Records: http://www.narada.com