ABUC Roberto Fonseca Impulse Roberto Fonseca is a charismatic Cuban revivalist and revisionist whose work carries the seal of revolutionary zeal. While he has made a significant contribution to his country’s music continuum, including a stint with Buena Vista Social Club, the industrious piano maestro takes that exploration to a new peak with ABUC. Fonseca’s ninth album and his first release for Impulse, one of America’s premier jazz labels, is what the title obliquely implies — that is, a backwards perusal and dissemination of Cuba’s jazz history. What the moniker fails to convey is the personalised and visionary nature of the artist’s approach.
ABUC is as adventurous as 2012’s Yo, in which the Havana-based keyboard virtuoso, composer and producer drilled down into Cuba’s musical roots with a stellar West African crew. This time Fonseca’s creations showcase a coterie of Cuban legends, including his mother, singer Mercedes Cortes, and Buena Vista’s trumpeter Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal on the breathtakingly beautiful bolero study Despues. Fonseca has recorded another fellow Social Club alumnus, Eliades Ochoa, singing a co-penned song, Tumbao de la Unidad, as though his voice were filtered through the mists of time, while his compadre’s hybrid guitar-tres weaves mesmerising son figures between stabs of electric guitar, staccato piano and percussion.
A rumba-esque romp, Afro Mambo, captures a 1940s Cuban big band jazz feel to a nicety, the blazing seven-piece brass section laying down a robust platform for singer Dayme Arocena. Bookending the set, contrasting cover versions of Ray Bryant’s 70s classic Cubano Chant spotlight piano mastery from the band leader — initially in a of his 1970s band, the Bootleg Family, along with guests such as saxophonist Wilbur Wilde, Rose Tattoo’s Dai Pritchard, prog rock legend Mike Rudd, Thirsty Merc’s Mick Skelton and 10cc guitarist Rick Fenn.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Cadd has re-recorded songs he mostly penned in the 70s, keeping true to early recording practices by requiring the musicians to mostly be together in the Melbourne studio and limiting the number of takes. The sound quality and overall feel of the album was guaranteed through the production talents of Doug Brady.
Most Australians know Cadd for his Axiom hits and ballads such as Ginger Man but the prolific songwriter had a strong rock streak. This comes out in full force from the opening bars of souped-up guaracha-styled ensemble piece highlighted by a blinding trombone break from New Orleans whiz-kid Trombone Shorty; latterly in a short solo tour-de-force.
Family is equally funky and in your face with taut trumpet and Fonseca’s bluesy Hammond organ underpinning a lusty male chorus inspired by 70s supergroup Los Zafiros. The MD’s classically inspired piano is the epitome of cool in Contradanza del Espiritu, in combination with cello, before the arrangement morphs into something more expansive. Fonseca’s keyboard work in Habanera is the height of elegance, in tandem with Barbara Llanes’s celestial wordless soprano singing and a laid-back rhythm section. Sagrado Corazon is different again, with Fonseca in classic mainstream jazz piano-bass-drums trio configuration.
ABUC works on a celebratory and cerebral level, offering a cornucopia of lush, lissom and imaginatively arranged music played by a wellchosen and directed Cuban crew. Bulletproof. Just over half of the tracks were cowritten and some, such as Love is Like a Rolling Stone, were recorded previously by artists ranging from the Pointer Sisters to Joe Cocker and Bonnie Tyler.
They are re-energised here as Cadd and his small army of talented musicians create a genuine old-time rock ’n’ roll chemistry.
From the Daddy Cool groove of Slow Walk, dedicated to the late Ross Hannaford, to the thumping rock of Long Time ‘Till the First Time and Hell Out of Dodge, this album brings home the goods.
And the one new track, a moving ballad called The One that Got Away, shows Cadd has not lost his songwriting touch.