The career of talented writer/pianist and band leader
Manolito Simonet stretches back some decades. In 1993 Manolito led a mass defection from the long established charanga francesa (string ensemble and flute led orchestra), Maravillas De Florida, and went on to form his Trabuco (Blunderbuss). Like Los Van Van and El Charangón de Revé, El Trabuco was a charanga beefed up to produce a more aggressive, modern sound.
Many will look back to 1998 and Marcando La Distancia as the group’s finest moment. This extremely infectious dance track, led by Sixto Llorente, crossed over into the Salsa market like no other modern Cuban track. It was the CD of the same name and its immediate predecessor, Contra Todos Los Pronósticos that kick-started TimbaMerchant in the early 2000’s. I also look back, though, to their first CD from 1996, to Perfume particularly, and to their 2001 hit, Linda Melodía from Rompiendo Los Termómetros. The latter was an almost perfect vehicle for ex-Klimax singer, Carlos Calunga, particularly with the band’s new “baby” bass. One of the great modern Cuban vocalists, Calunga delivers naturally and without a hint of emoting. Though arranging and mixing at times submerges his voice under overly powerful horns and the coro, this is sublime in places. Look out for it.
Symptomatic of the times, the remainder of the CD did little for me, however. Likewise the preceding CD, Para Que Baile Cuba. As it turned increasingly towards the Salsa market, I lost interest in this group.
This CD from 2010 may still please Salsa dancers. Standing out, however, from the mundane, the cliché and the clumsy, obvious timing, there’s half a track which flirts with the heady days of Timba. If you persist through its opening, at 3 minutes in, La Noche comes alive with what is missing everywhere else. Syncopated bass, rhythmic coros, later tension building horn lines, compel you to move your bones. Having shown what they can do just leaves you wishing they’d do it more.