It’s with great pleasure that Far Out Recordings can re-issue this extremely rare, cult record from one of the finest bands to emerge from Cuba. Stepping out of Brazil Joe Davis has been digging through the dustiest crates to re-discover one of the very best Latin American records. Recorded in Japan in 1980 and released as a Japanese exclusive vinyl LP ‘Cuba Libre’ was composed, arranged and produced by the remarkable Japanese musician Chikara Ueda. With almost the entire original line up in place including Chucho Valdes, Arturo Sandoval, and Jorge Alfonso this is a record of sublime quality that retains all of the authentic essence and beauty of Cuban music. Among the most influential Latin bands Irakere’s mix of fiery funk anthems and sophisticated jazz has rarely sounded better than on these six classic tracks.
“Irakere has always been among my favourite bands and one of the best to come out of Cuba. It’s extremely exciting to be able to re-issue one of their finest works, which ranks alongside their classic LPs of the ’70s and ’80s. Chikara Ueda is an amazing arranger, producer and I have many of his works. I was always taken aback by the excellence of his arrangement and the range of work he has been involved with. With this in mind it is no surprise that he can take on the almighty Irakere and produce a record of sublime quality whilst keeping all the authentic essence and beauty of the Cuban sound.
Irakere was extremely important to the rise of Cuban music. Prior to the explosion of Buena Vista Social Club they were the leading and best loved Cuban band on the international stage, releasing classic LPs including the Latin Grammy winners of ’79 and ’80 (the same year ‘Cuba Libre’ was recorded) ‘Irakere’ and ‘Irakere II’ to great acclaim. The band has a cult following around the world obsessed with the genius musicianship and song-writing of these Cuban legends. Chucho Valdes is regarded as the greatest jazz pianist in Cuba and Arturo Sandoval is arguably the most prodigious trumpeter of his generation, both going on to great individual fame in the United States. The only change from the early recordings sees Paquito D’ Rivera replaced by the brilliant German Velazco Vrdeliz on sax, with many of the best Cuban musicians of the period remaining to deliver stunning performances for this fascinating session. The trumpets of Sandoval and Jorge Varona complement each other perfectly while Conguero maestro Jorge “El Nino” Alfonso is simply impeccable on percussion.
A more fiery and sophisticated sound than you might expect from a Cuban band the live shows I attended in New York and London towards the end of the ’80s were among the best I have ever seen. To be able to re-issue an album that has long been out of print, never before released outside of Japan, and with an almost entirely prevailing original line-up is something else. It’s especially significant and appropriate for this record to be the label’s first Cuban release with it being their closest work to Brazilian and Far Out recording legends Azymuth’s Latin jazz sound. With stunning re-mastering and music of glorious quality ‘Cuba Libre’ is an essential re-issue of one of Latin music’s finest moments.” Joe Davis, 2010
Irakere was born in Havana in 1973 as a means of self-expression for some extraordinary young musicians. By combining the power of the Cuban rhythms in their blood with the free-flowing expression of the American jazz they loved, they created a force that changed the course of Cuban popular music.
Never before released on CD, this is the first ever release outside of Japan for ‘Cuba Libre’ and with stunning re-mastering and music of glorious quality this is an essential re-issue of one of Latin music’s holy grail collector’s items – a vital piece of Cuban music history.