"It's a story that Arsenio Rodríguez died poor and forgotten," Mario Bauzá told Leonardo Padura at a New York bar. The two Cubans tried to find essences of the Island and The Wonderful Blind it is. The kick of a beast (presumably a mule) left him blind in childhood, in the fifties he went to the United States behind a cure he did not find and said: "reality is born and dying." But he had already created the sets or, at least, Arsenio Rodríguez had felt crystallize that sound, then they would come: The Casino Set, Roberto Faz, La Sonora Matancera, Los Latinos, Rumbavana or Son 14. All that fits (is) on a disc that Alden González devised. His new proposal for the Egrem together with Alain Pérez, Alexander Abreu, Mayito Rivera and Geovanis Alcántara: A romper el coco.
Alden González is recognized for his work with El Septeto Santiaguero for almost 10 years. Right in this 2019 he left the group to begin to dedicate himself to what he wanted: to produce. Now he is presented as a producer in collaboration with the experienced arranger and also producer Geovanis Alcántara in a tribute to the sets that goes from the 50s to the 80s, so there is much to propose in 10 songs.
A romper el coco opens with the namesake of Otilio Portales defended, with an old voice, by Alain Pérez and closes with a trio of the protagonists. Alexander Abreu, Mayito Rivera and Alain Perez share: Agua que cae del cielo, The morning is, The trail is burned and A Bayamo en coche. In the midst of everything, a selection of hits almost insurmountable.
Each song on the album is dedicated to a set. The producers made it explicit, not only in the album cover, but in each of the themes: Roberto Faz, and Conjunto Casino, Pacho Alonso and Los Bocucos, Arsenio Rodríguez, La Sonora Matancera, El niño Rivera, El Conjunto Matamoros , Chapotín, the tresero Luis Lija Ortiz and Panchito Riset, Rumbavana and Son 14 with, of course, his two fundamental figures: Adalberto Alvarez and Tiburón Morales.
The phonogram arrives after an intelligent inquiry. More than 20 years have passed since the Buena Vista Social Club and the Afrocuban All Stars. The producers have known to anthologize without repeating, although nobody can ignore the sonorities of Oscar de León or Laito Sureda, a protagonist of this sound that found resurrection in the nineties. Of course, it is a danceable album, so the bolero hardly enters the stage with I hate you and I love you, the track number seven.
Every groove on this plate counts. To make an anthology is to be cornered by forgetfulness, but in this case they are great topics well interpreted and arranged. If some objection I made in a moment was the brevity, but in the phonogram it reads "Volume one", which presupposes sequel.
It exists in A romper el coco respect to the original arrangements and the novelty of this time appears. It is as if they had traveled to the times of each theme with technology and musicians. González and Alcántara not only cited Alain Pérez, Mayito Rivera and Alexander Abreu, but also figures of the caliber of Charlie Aponte, Edwin Bonilla, Bobby Allende and groups like La Conga de Los Hoyos.
Although the album, as it usually happens these days, was recorded in several studios, most of the recordings fall to Máximo Espinosa, Edgar Leyva and Iván Salas of the Siboney studios in Santiago de Cuba. In the mix they repeat Salas and Espinosa but the producers Geovanis Alcántara and Alden González are added. The mastering was done at Power Light Studios, Miami, by Ronnie Torres.
This must be a key disc, not only for the Egrem, but for the entire Cuban music industry. A romper el coco sum in its core tradition, current and a sound, as far as I can hear, impeccable. But I insist it is not an anthology to keep future generations. This is a record that could be played anywhere, under any skin, at any time. I was in the Siboney studios to listen to the first chords and I already suspected it, the pair González-Alcántara understands, and decides with certainty which instrument, voice or microphone goes better with the son, the conga or the chachachá. The ensembles have here a tribute that reincorporates them to the 21st century, a succession of successes where the producers chose well musicians, studios and singers. So obey the orders of the first subject defended masterfully by Alain Pérez. Break the coconut, it's beautiful music what it will have.