Orquesta Aragón, Monday, November 5, 2012


Orquesta Aragón
Monday, November 5, 2012
Kuumbwa Jazz

“… one of Cuba’s grandest, longest-established bands….” – The New York Times

Since 1939, Orquesta Aragón has been considered Cuba’s finest charanga band. Charanga bands developed in Cuba over a century ago and featured a frontline of violins, flute, and vocalist, backed by a rhythm section of piano, bass, guiro, and timbales. Initially specializing in music for the Danzón, Orquesta Aragón evolved with the times and changing dance styles. Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, Onda-cha, Pachanga, and variations of the Són, were encompassed by the forward thinking band. As JazzTimes magazine points out, Orquesta Aragón is, “Not just a revival band, but modernists expanding the repertoire of charanga music.”

Started by bassist Orestes Aragón Cantero, Orquesta Aragón began as Ritmica 39 – for the year in which they were started – then became Ritmica Aragón (after its founder’s middle name), and finally settled on Orquesta Aragón. In the early 20th century, as the popular music of the United States was changing and evolving, so too was Cuban music. Having percolated side-by-side for centuries, African and European musical influences gradually melded into a new sound to form the bedrock of Cuban music. In particular, the blending of European string and brass instruments, with African percussion rhythms, charted new territory for dancing. Charanga bands differed significantly from the earlier orquesta tipicas by dispensing with brass players and relying on the warmer sound of violins and flute serenely floating over a cooking rhythm section. It was from this new tradition that Orquesta Aragón sprang. Cantero’s group also functioned as a co-op. All of the members were paid equal wages.

In 1948, Orestes Cantero stepped down as musical director due to illness. A young Rafael Lay took his place. During Rafael’s time as musical director the band moved from the coastal town of Cienfuegos and began playing Havana nightspots, as well as adjusting to changing dance trends. By the mid-50s, Cha-cha-cha was replacing the Danzón and the Mambo as the popular dance music. The Onda-cha, the Són, and the Pachanga were soon to follow. The lineup of Orquesta Aragón has changed over the years due to aging members retiring, sometimes being replaced by a younger family member. In the 1990s, the group was rejuvenated under the leadership of Rafael’s son Rafael Lay, Jr.  The younger Lay rekindled interest in the charanga format with international tours and the release of new recordings: Quien Sabe Sabe in 1997; La Charanga Eterna in 1999; and En Route in 2001. En Route garnered a Grammy nomination and reaffirmed Orquesta Aragón as a vital, and ongoing, part of the rich Afro-Cuban music legacy.

Orquesta Aragón

DATE: Monday, November 5, 2012
PLACE: Kuumbwa Jazz Center
ADDRESS: 320 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
TIMES: 7:00 and 9:00 PM
PRICE: $25/Adv $28/Door; No Jazztix or Comps
TICKETS: Logos Books & Records, 1117 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz (831) 427-5100 and online at: http://www.kuumbwajazz.org
MORE INFO: http://www.kuumbwajazz.org or 831-427-2227

Media contact:
Maurice Montoya

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