Omar Puente is a regular on the pages of FLY, but From There To Here is actually his debut album and it couldn’t come soon enough; produced by a certain Fitzgerald Courtney Pine OBE no less.
The title of Omar Puente’s album is rather appropriate on many counts but with the 50th anniversary of Cuban independence that has got this site a bit Havana Cultura hot (check out the latest podcast with Gilles Peterson), Cuban born Puente has been on quite a journey (and not just to the Havana Cultura gig at the Barbican a few months back!)
The notes that come with this release tell us he’s not keen on being called a Cuban exile; it’s just the case that he doesn’t live in Cuba anymore having married in the UK and lives in Yorkshire. He studied classical and Cuban music at the Escuela Nacional de Arte and the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana but he’s been in the UK for over ten years now and has formed many a musical liaisons, initially with Kirsty McColl (in Raices Cubanas) and then in Deny Baptiste‘s Let Freedom Ring aswell as playing with Jools Holland, Courtney Pine’s touring band (as at the Larmer Tree, Robert Mitchell (including their duo album Bridges) and Simon Bolivar’s Symphony Orchestra to name a few.
And in addition to Pine guesting here, he’s got some pay back as both Mitchell (all of it) and Rollins (particularly ‘Rumbiando’) are on top form along with a multitude of Cuban musicians.
To kick off, you may be aware the Mrs Puente has been in the news of late (definitely as case of From There To Here see links below) and they say it was Mrs P. that bought Omar his first electric violin. He then named the violin ‘My Mrs’; hence, the warm and uplifting opening track is rightly called ‘My Mrs’.
Because of his expertise on either electric or acoustic, he’s gone and covered a wide range on the album but never going too far from what you could call Cuban. He and the band make any Latin flavour sound effortless and for us with dancin’ feet, head straight to ‘Talking Bata’, and the ‘rural’ fiddle of ‘Think Carefully’ (both with vocals in Spanish by Ricardo Pompa).
The set builds up for a big ballad-opus, suitably entitled ‘Motherland Pulse’ where Eska Mtungwazi sings the lead (she was last seen at the Big Chill with Mathew Herbert’s Big Band); of the motherland, Omar says “my history began in Africa, it was written in Cuba and developed in the UK”.
Apart from the dancer’s mentioned, ‘Swings & Roundabouts’, ‘Just Like U’ and ‘Apunta Un Lapiz’ stand out on the jazzier end of things (Robert Mitchell is as brilliant as ever; a match for Roberto Fonseca?) whilst the album warms up on more folky influences.
I’m no fan of jazz standards and the Rodgers & Hart composition ‘You Are Too Beautiful’ leave me cold; so it’s a good job the rest of the album approaches red hot; especailly ‘Swings & Roundabouts’ and ‘Apunta Un Lapiz’.
There’s a live performance of From There To Here with Omar, his Cuban band and special guests at the Jazz Cafe on 17th November as part of the London Jazz Festival (see details below) but whether you’re violin thing is St?©phane Grappelli, Micha?Ç Urbaniak or Jean Luc Ponty, you need to get From There To Here as Puente is up there with them.
Reviewed: Omar Puente – From There To Here (Destin-e World Records/Creative People Music) Cat. No. 777-G20011962 Release date: 19th October 2009
1. My Mrs (6:12)
2. Somebody Backstage (Danzon) (6:06)
3. Rumbiando (6:02)
4. Just Like “U” (5:16)
5. You Are Too Beautiful (6:56)
6. Apunta Un Lapiz (7:19)
7. Swings & Roundabouts (8:27)
8. Talking Bata (6:36)
9. Think Carefully (6:45)
10. Motherland Pulse (5:41)
Omar Puente – From There To Here Live – Tuesday 17 November 2009 at 9:30pm, Jazz Cafe, 5 Parkway, London NW1 7PG Box Office 087 0060 3777
Visit Site www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk
Guidance on assisted suicide eases families’ court fears The Yorkshire Post 24 September 2009 by Tom Palmer Political
The undying love of a man who gave up everything for Debbie Purdy – Throughout her historic court battle, Debbie Purdy’s husband, violinist Omar Puente, has been by her side. This is their inspiring story – Anushka Asthana The Observer, Sunday 2 August 2009 www.guardian.co.uk