(Mack Avenue Records)
Since he was a teenager playing at the Jazz Plaza Festival in his native Havana, pianist Roberto Fonseca has been captivating listeners with his mix of traditional Cuban music and forward-leaning jazz. A graduate of the Institute Superior del Arte with a master’s in composition, Fonseca has been recording for more than 20 years. He was also a member of the Buena Vista Social Club and toured with legendary Cuban performers such as Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo. These deep roots nourish Fonseca’s music, as can be heard on his 2019 release Yesun (Mack Avenue). Accompanied by his trio mates, bassist Yandy Martínez and drummer Raúl Herrera, Fonseca dives into a lively program of original tunes that nod to a variety of influences. The pianist, who also plays electric keyboards, sings and plays percussion, welcomes some guest musicians, as well, including saxophonist Joe Lovano and French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf. The latter is featured on “Kachucha,” our selection, which celebrates the importance of dance in Cuban culture, both in its lyrics and in its irresistible rhythm. Fonseca, Martínez and Herrera maintain a lively but stately groove to which Maalouf adds heated brass accents.