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Rick's Pick: Richard Bona & Mandekan Cubano

The music of Cuba has been shaped significantly both by traditions brought to the island by African slaves and by the European culture of the Spanish slaveholders, and those two disparate strands of tradition have created an unusual musical emulsion on that small island. Bassist and singer Richard Bono has long delighted in exploring Cuban music in all of its kaleidoscopic variety, turning it from side to side in order to expose its different facets: West African call-and-response here, complex son cubano rhythms there, lots of massed horns and percussion throughout. On Heritage he does it again, this time in the company of the outstanding Mandekan Cubano ensemble. As always, his smooth and sweet voice is centrally important to the project, but the band sounds fantastic too. This is a tremendously enjoyable album.