Political Prisoners of the Empire  MIAMI 5     

     

C U L T U R E

Havana.  July 2, 2014

Adalberto and his Son:
30 years is nothing


Rafael Lam

Adalberto Álvarez is Cuba’s most well-known contemporary son musician, and on February 26, 2014, his group celebrated its 30th anniversary, which for him is nothing, because “I hope to keep son alive for many years.”

The aptly named gentleman of son created a style, a son sound fused with traditional trova.
The aptly named gentleman of son created a style, a son sound fused with traditional trova.

He recalled the days when he started a new project in Havana, in 1984, with the “friendly inspiration of Oscar D’ León. He baptized the group Adalberto y su Son. We had a new lineup with singers Félix Baloy, Ciso Guanche and the superb voice of Héctor Anderson. The three were supported by Pancho Amat, we had very well trained musicians. We quickly produced several hits for dancers:Esperando que vuelva María”, “El regreso de María” and “Mi negra se ha vuelto loca.”

In 1978, before this experience with Adalberto y su Son, Adalberto had already left his mark on son with the group Son 14, in which he created “a certain unexpected sound, simple, spontaneous son music, full of originality,” according to the note written by pianist, composer and producer, Frank Fernández, on Adalberto’s first album Son 14.

In 1992, Adalberto stated that at the beginning of the 1970’s he was looking for a sound closer to that of Latin salsa, about which he has some astonishing information.

Aldalberto Álvarez y su son is one of the most popular bands in Cuba.
Aldalberto Álvarez y su son is one of the most popular bands in Cuba.

“First I had to find my style, character, a signature which would identify me and differentiate me from the group Rumbavana, for whom I was composing songs and with whom I identified in my youth. That’s why I introduced the trombones. During that time Tito Puente, Los Palmieri and Fania All Stars were predominate; I identified with some of the songs of Latin American origin and decided, with my compositions, to create a signature, similar to that of other popular Latin American music. So I tried to reproduce what they were doing with our music. That is why Son 14 is sometimes viewed as a Latin American group, or rather, a group able to satisfy the taste of any country in the continent, because we were closer to the general style of popular music which was being made in Latin America, with a defect that, after listening again to the recordings of  Son 14, after so many years, I finally discovered something very interesting: the music we made was a lot faster than the rest of the salsa groups, I mean, more to a Cuban dancers taste. And I think that if I had had the experience of those years, I would have made more mature music for the dancer, closer to the rhythm I am creating now with the group Adalberto y su Son.”

But, there is more, Adalberto was creating a style, a son sound fused with traditional trova. From trova he took the romantic lyrics and from son the essential tumbao and montuno rhythms. Pianist Lilí Martínez with Arsenio and Chapottín’s groups provided direction and inspiration. He was also influencea by the popular songs of Ñico Saquito. “We will always be committed and indebted to the great soneros such as Arsenio, I would also like to pay tribute to Benny Moré. Son is from year in which you play it,” said Adalberto.

During our conversation, I asked Adalberto to list the most important events of his 40 years of artistic life. “The first milestone was the National School of Art (ENA), where I studied music from 1962. Of that experience, I remember my class mates, Beatriz Márquez, José Luis Cortés, Pachito Alonso, Emiliano Salvador, Joaquín Betancourt, Demetrio Muñiz. In 1962, with a few friends we formed a group called the Típica, in the ENA, made up of two bassoons, two flutes, two oboes, three violins, a viola and a cello; a fun experience. I will never forget my first compositions played and recorded by Rumbavana: “El son de Adalberto” and “Sobre un tema triste.” Next came my period of Social Service in 1973 in Camagüey, where I taught classes in the music school. At the same time I was performing with my father Nene’s group Avance Juvenil. Eduardo (Tiburón) Morales’ arrival to the group was decisive at that time. Over time, several musicians from Camagüey, full of hope, found a place in Cuban music, we started our invasion towards the east later forming Son 14 in Santiago de Cuba.”

Adalberto’s influences and musical inheritance are also worth noting, “My mother, Rosa Zayas, was a very good singer. She was, in a large way my musical mentor. My father had the groups Avance Juvenil and Soneros de Camacho. In my house we breathed the traditionalists: Arsenio Rodríguez, Chapottín, La Sonora Matancera, El Casino, La Aragón, Sensación, Neno González, Benny Moré.”

Adalberto’s main successes – as in the case of Juan Formell – are concentrated in his renowned compositions: “A Bayamo en coche,” “El son de la madrugada,” “¿Y qué tú quieres que te den?”, “A bailar el toca toca”, “Para bailar casino” and “Gozando en La Habana”. Later he recoded albums with Isaac Delgado, Celina González and Omara Portuondo. Many of Adalberto’s creations were recorded with Latin salsa bands, La 440, Willie Rosario, Charanga Casino, El Trabuco Mexicano, Andy Montanez, Juan Luis Guerra, Eddie Palmieri, Gilberto Santa Rosa, and many more.

Adalberto Alvarez has become a promoter of Casino style salsa, typical of Cuba. In 2008 he received the National Music Award and has taken son half way round the world. In 1983 the group performed at Berkeley’s Geek Theatre, San Francisco, California and the Temple of Diana, Nimes, París. In 2002 they played with Company Segundo at the Congress Centre Porte Maillot in Paris. They have recorded 20 albums and Adalberto is currently director of his own group Fiesta del Tinajón from Camagüey. The Cuban sonero finished by saying, “My main objective was always to get dancers dancing, this is our mission, to give the people joy.”

 

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