commercial concessions, Son De Cristal is right up my street. Though lacking scores of conventional dance tracks, this is one of the best of the ’00’s to my way of thinking. Apparently sponsored by the Cuban beer, it’s the second CD I know of from ex-Klimax singer Manuel Denis after the storming 1999 Coquí release, Nunca Pescao, Siempre Tiburón. Swing is an appropriate name for the band. They are razor sharp, tight and, surprise surprise, they swing.
Denis has written more than half the material himself, and I wouldn’t skip over any of the tracks. Every song, including several Boleros with their beautiful meandering melodies, and a Cha Cha Cha, has a point to it. The majority are an uneasy fusion of quite traditional Son with elements of Jazz and Timba percussion and bass. There’s are also Charanga Francesa arrangements in several tracks, prominently on Pregúntame Como Estoy, which in places reminds of Original De Manzanillo.
El Bombón begins with what sounds like a timbarised Conga Oriental and steel pans thrown in. Several tracks, like Ella Se Enamoró, discourage use on the dance scene by their extended largos and not easily danced bridges. Others are so lacking in harmonic resolution, the percussion and bass are so tough, they will probably at first repel an audience used to modern commercial Cuban music.
Top flight, and if formula breaking and harmonious discord is your thing, highly recommended.