Wheeler Front

Tiempo Libre

March 14, 2012

The three-time Grammy-nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre is one the hottest young Latin bands today. Equally at home in concert halls, jazz clubs and dance venues, Tiempo Libre’s Miami-based members are true modern heirs to the rich tradition of the music of their native Cuba. Classically trained at Cuba’s premiere conservatories, today the group is a hit in the U.S. and abroad, celebrated for its incendiary, joyful performances of timba, an irresistible, dance-inducing mix of high-voltage Latin jazz and the seductive rhythms of son.

The group’s new Sony Masterworks timba recording, My Secret Radio, was released last year. The album pays homage to Tiempo Libre’s teenage years in Cuba, a time when the government forbade its citizens to listen to American music and Russia had pulled its support from the island. Inspired by their Afro-Cuban tradition, but eager to catch the new trends and sounds coming from the U.S., Tiempo Libre’s members would fashion homemade antennas and secretly listen to the music pulsating from Miami radio stations at night. These secret radio sessions fueled Tiempo Libre’s dreams of living in America, free to perform their songs and build the careers they wanted while helping them gather the strength that it took to leave it all behind—families, friends, a country, a life—to pursue those dreams. The CD is their tribute to the many powerful voices, including those of Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Gloria Estefan and Earth Wind & Fire, that rocked their world. The album features guest performances by jazz singer Rachelle Fleming and reunites Tiempo Libre founder Jorge Gomez with the legendary Cuban songstress Albita.

Tiempo Libre’s first recording for Sony Masterworks, Bach in Havana, was nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Tropical Latin Album” and featured tracks with Paquito D’Rivera and Yosvany Terry. Released in 2009, the album received airplay on more than 200 radio stations, was hailed by Latin Jazz Network as “a landmark recording in the sense that Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue was approximately 50 years ago,” and was selected as a best pick in new Latin music by The Miami Herald.

Tiempo Libre was invited to collaborate on the duet “Para Ti” with violinist Joshua Bell, which was featured on Bell’s September album At Home with Friends. The group also performed the track with Bell on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, Live From Lincoln Center: Joshua Bell @ Home with Friends PBS Special and on WNYC radio’s popular program Soundcheck.

In 2008, Tiempo Libre brought its Afro-Cuban beat to flutist Sir James Galway’s album, O’Reilly Street, released by the RCA Red Seal label. The album features an exciting new Latin jazz arrangement of music from the Claude Bolling Jazz Suites including “Baroque and Blue,”as well as a timba take on Bach’s “Badinerie” and a number of vibrant new compositions all by Tiempo Libre’s musical director and pianist Jorge Gomez. The result is rich in the traditions of multiple genres, authentic yet emotionally seductive, transcending the borders between classical, jazz and Cuban music.

Tiempo Libre’s members were all enjoying thriving careers in Latin music performing, touring and recording with such artists as Albita, Cachao, Arturo Sandoval, NG La Banda, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Isaac Delgado, when the seven extraordinary musicians came together to realize their collective musical dream: to create the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the United States. Their eagerness to share their music with others led these multi-talented individuals to come together between projects to develop their new style together, hence the name Tiempo Libre (Free Time).

In Summer 2002, at the group’s Ravinia Festival debut opening for Celia Cruz, Tiempo Libre dazzled a crowd of more than 12,000 people. They were quickly reengaged by Ravinia for 2003, where they shared a bill with Aretha Franklin, performing before an enthusiastic crowd of 20,000. That same year they also performed at the new Heineken Jazz Festival in Hua Hin, Thailand. Return trips to Asia have included sold out shows.

In 2007, Tiempo Libre embarked upon another exciting project, the creation of a new work—Rumba Sinfónica—for symphony orchestra and Cuban band. The composition, a collaboration with the highly-respected Venezuelan classical composer Ricardo Lorenz, was commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Ravinia Festival and the Festival of the Arts Boca.

This performance was co-sponsored with the Wheeler Opera House.

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