Francisco Aguabella


Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Francisco Aguabella – “Yesterday’s Dreams” from Cubacan (2002 Cubpop)


Gentle readers, I ask you in all seriousness, from whence comes schmaltz? By which I don’t mean the eastern European delicacy made from poultry fat, but that schlocky varnish that transforms art into something gaudy?

A better question, perhaps: Do I own the wrong Francisco Aguabella album? On the face of it, you’d think it would be impossible to go wrong: master conguero from Cuba, how could that be bad? Dizzy Gillespie, that giant of all things Afro-Cuban, said that “Aguabella is the John Coltrane of the Conga Drums.” Gillespie worked with Chano Pozo for chrissakes! On the other hand, Gillespie (who made some questionable records himself) died before Aguabella, at age 77, decided to record a Four Tops cover, the reworking of which relied heavily on a syrupy lead trombone.

It all kind of reminds me of the time that Maynard Ferguson came to play at my high school. He was old, and a legend of the big band trumpet, and sure, he was impressive enough, but it was so high-gloss as to be cheesy. None of us left out of there wanting to be Maynard Ferguson, but we did have a lot of questions about what in the hell was up with his rider.

I don’t recall what led me to this album; maybe an eMusic recommendation based upon download history (Mongo Santamaría, is this your fault?), and I’m not prepared to write Aguabella off, but neither am I prepared to dive in with both feet and really explore his career based on this particular effort. That may or may not be unfortunate, as I could very well be missing some great stuff as a result.

As a result of my recent post on Buena Vista Social Club (and my son’s peculiar affection for Pérez Prado), a friend sent me a link to Sound Opinions’ Cuba primer, and, while fast paced and at times overly technical, I recommend it as a starting point for anyone interested in exploring the sounds of the island.

Friends: As sometimes happens here at the Shuffler, the YouTubes can’t keep up with our eclectic tastes, and so I am unable to provide video for you to check out this song/s. We regret the inconvenience.