Music group
Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez has been the power behind the most popular and influential Latin music of the past decade. Since leaving Cuba and arriving in New York in 1993, he’s driven the efforts of Grammy Awards-winners Michel Camilo, Roy Hargrove and Chuco Valdes, as well as Paquito D’Rivera, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Carlos Santana, with a unique “Latin fusion” style that melds the steady press of the folkloric clave with the fierce punch, crisp snap and deep grooves of today’s jazz, pop and rock.

Now on Italuba (Pimienta records), El Negro debuts as bandleader and co-composer, leaping to the fore of the next generation of Latin stars, bringing his native musicality to international crossover audiencies.

“This is the first time I’ve found music and musicians who energize me to put all my passion into a project”, says Hernandez, 40, of the album and his quartet – all Cuban emigrates he met in Torino while on solo tour in Italy. “I see Italuba as related to jazz and world as well as Cuban music. Like everything I do, it’s Cuban, but with a wider vision”.

Like the title “Italuba”, which bridges Italy and Cuba, El Negro’s sound from the opening “Free Latin” to the finale “Que Negro esta” springs of tradition and heads for what’s new. His drumming is quick and deft, unrelenting in propulsion yet suffused with a surprising array of timbral accents.

The CD’s eight tracks (Including “A Night in Torino”, taking off from Dizzie Gillespie’s bebop classic “Night in Tunisia”) are all created collectively by the Italuba Quartet. “It’s a little bit of a workshop, when the four of us get together”, Negro explains , “Everybody brings their ideas and we build composion out of it”. Amik Guerra’s lyrical and blazing trumpet and flugenhorn, Ivan Bridon Napoles idiomatic and inventive piano and keyboards work, and pocket-perfect electric bass and baby bass playng by Daniel Martinez Izquierdo, at El Negro’s direction, result in coherent though kaleidoscopic dimensions.

“We are at the point where we are letting the music play us, instead of us play the music”, El Negro says of the ease with which the players relate and blend. In doing so, Italuba exhibist the grace which characterized Projecto, Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s acclaimed group with which El Negro first travelled outside Cuba in 1980; the exuberance of pianist Camilo’s Trio with El Negro, which won Latin Jazz Grammy for his two CD set “Live at the Blue Note”; the authenticity of trumpeter Hargrove’s “Crisol”, for which El Negro shared a Grammy in 1997, and the accessibility of Santana’s “Supernatural”, which El Negro helped produce.

At the core of Italuba’s repertoires are the classic Afro-Cuban rhythms that underlie all styles of Latin America – the rumba, guanguanco, danzon, mambo and modernized montunos called “Timba”, popularized by cuban ensembles like “Los Van Van” and “NG”. The knowledge and flexibility of el Negro and his fellows allows their music to flow freely and from their hearts, as when they break from “Night in Tunisia” theme to quote “Guantanamara”, Jose Marti’s enduring ode to the Cuban island.

As a political refugee from Cuba, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez sings of his homeland and heritage in every measure of Italuba, and also of his larger ambition. “I hope”, the drummer says, “The music will help us to tear down the political barriers, and we can take this music to the whole world..”.

Busty globetrotting with his Italuba Quartet, El Negro is well on his way.
Your Italuba stats
  • Be the first member to like Italuba
Italuba's artists (1)

Italuba's related music (1)
comments (sign in and write yours)