Ex-Buena Vista Social Club member Fonseca delivers a remarkable CD.
Although a member of Buena Vista Social Club (in 2001, at the tender age of 26, he replaced legend Rubén González) right up until the group's final recordings, Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca is not at all interested in having his music viewed as nostalgia. Though certainly respectful of the various traditions that serve as influence to him, Fonseca is a forward-looking player. And a global one, too. Although the Cuban flavors are omnipresent on his latest disc, Zamazu, there are also sonic spices emanating from Argentina, Brazil, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the far-out world of late-'60s jazz and funk. Fonseca handles them all deftly, with a percussive and fluid piano attack that occasionally verges into rock and roll territory but always remains both elegant and thick with emotional integrity. Quieter numbers like "Suspiro" and "Llego Cachaito" (featuring legendary Cuban bassist Orlando "Cachaito" López) show Fonseca's soft, slightly melancholic side, but it's on complex pieces like the atmospheric "Ishmael," the brief, hard-driving "Así Baila Mi Madre" and the pan-ethnic "Congo Arabe" that the pianist shines most brightly. A remarkable and diverse album.