Mujer (Woman) with its opening, “I’m going to love you woman although not forever” is written for the mother of Alvarez’ eldest daughter, a “fabulous woman and excellent friend”.
Monthly Archives: December 2011
David Alvarez and his New Trova dream
After ten years of playing with his band “Juego de Manos”, David now realizes the dream of his life and records his solo “Trova” album called “Clan Destino” Tumi 182. His compositions go back some ten years ego when I “Mo Fini” was sitting in Malecon in Havana and during the conversation I begged him to do a solo album of his Trova. Though he accepted there and then , then it took some ten years to realize his dream. Sadly just when we were half way through recording his one year old daughter fell ill with cancer of eye. After a suffering two years and the daughter losing the eye we went back to the studio to finish the album. We are all grateful for his work and prey for the quick recovery of his daughter.
David is well known international artist and many of you have seen him during his tours in UK and Europe particularly in Spain.
When we released his last album ,it quickly got to the top of the Songlines Music Magazine when Sue Steward reviewed the album “son Demasiado” Tumi 114.
His new album is delight to the ears and a cocktail of love and poems. Almost half finished I sent the album for review to one of my close friends and together with Sue one of the greatest Latin Critic of all times in the UK World Music Scene and Jan wrote
“David Álvarez offers a cache of the bold, confessional songs of a modern troubadour For this “dream finally realised” he brings together songs composed trova style in homage to his birthplace of Manzanillo, the region of Cuba with the strongest trova tradition, his tierra where his roots go deep. Versed in poetry these uncensored stories of the joys and trammels of love add laúd and Cuban tres guitar, to place their Caribbean core within a serenading Mediterranean sensibility, creating a modern renaissance ambience. Romance and love do not come easy, yet life remains joyful – was it not ever so…!”
I have known and recorded David now almost 20 years and yet to meet a singer/song writer with lyrics as sweet as his.
A man and an acoustic guitar. A Cuban man from the beautiful city of Manzanillo. A man offering a set of bold, confessional songs, versed in poetry, uncensored stories of the joys and trammels of love. It can only mean one thing: songs of a trovador, the modern equivalent of the early medieval troubadour. David Alvarez is known for his swinging dance music yet above all he holds fast to the task of the trovador to serenade love and life in all its vicissitudes. Even his custom of wearing a scarf tied gypsy style around his head evokes this iconoclastic spirit.
Most of the material here was composed trova style by David over quite a long period, between 1989 and the present. To bring all these songs together in one album is for David, “a dream finally realised”. As a musician born in Manzanillo (in 1972), the region of Cuba with the strongest trova tradition and where trova still flourishes, it has always been David’s intention to create a disc in homage to his tierra, his birthplace, where his roots go deep in the earth. Manzanillo is also a stronghold of Cuban son, a genre of music David responds to instinctively, underlined by his studying music in its heartland in Santiago de Cuba where he attended the Conservatoire before graduating and moving to Havana.
By 1989 David was working with iconoclast Pedro Luís Ferrer, involved at the periphery of the Nueva Trova movement while forging his own pathway. His son-canción Jugando de Manos (Conjuring) remains the leit-motif of his work. Its’ message – to keep faith with the exhilaration of the play of life, until death comes, sums up Alvarez’ core philosophy. Written in 1993 its’ shortened title, Juego de Manos, gave its name to the group he founded then, an inspiration in a period when Cuba literally went through dark times as the country re-invented itself following the end of dependence on the Soviet Union. David was part of this re-imagining, his song calling for a defence of core values as life continues to turn, for living life to the full is the way to discover ‘paradise on earth’.
Juego de Manos immediately set a new benchmark: buzzing with vitality they opened up Cuban Trova, Son, Guaracha and Guajira traditions by infusing them with influences from the neighbouring Caribbean islands and Central America. They gave Cuban music new impetus by adding in references to música tropical embracing Bachata, Merengue, Cumbia. In their own distinctive way they offered tribute to Dominican Republic’s Juan Luís Guerra and Colombia’s Carlos Vives with their own thrilling new sound. Following their first disc Rimasones (Rhyming Sones), Alvarez with Juego de Manos signed to Mo Fini’s Tumi Music to release first Mundo Loco (Crazy World) and then Son Demasiado (Too Much Son), which won the special critics prize at Cuba’s prestigious annual Adolfo Guzmán competition.
With this new disc Alvarez locates that Caribbean feel within a broader Mediterranean sensibility, focusing on a string sound adding laúd and Cuban tres guitar to acoustic guitars. This gives the dazzling selection of songs composed over a long period an Italianate, at times almost renaissance string ensemble feel. This gives deep dimension to songs that map emotional life from the perspective of someone grooved into romantic love yet at times finding neither love nor those involved constant.
The sequence of songs works as a narrative of troubled times for lovers. The title track Como la Mariposa (Like a Butterfly), with its glorious serenading melody played over gentle percussion, sees David’s voice soar out from a choral weave to liken the history of love to something exquisite yet fragile, “so happy, beautiful, innocent like a butterfly fluttering from one place to another, yet giving the impression that in one moment you might suddenly disappear from sight.”
Despertar (Awaken) composed in the difficult 1990s, with its fluent flute lead, marries melancholy with hope and yearning, telling about life at, “one of those moments when the world around you seems to lose meaning, when the economic crisis of the Special Period, a crisis that impacted on ethics and aesthetics, meant hard times for dreamers”.
The intimate guitar opening to Desquite (Repayment) sets the scene for a plea to be understood when all about love seems in flux. Its’ arrangement sets sweet chorus and then clarinet as partners to the metal of Alvarez’ voice as he tells a story of the struggle to share pleasure and pain, to find something to hold onto when one has taken the wrong path.
Desventura (Misadventure) has tantalising guitar references evoking Andean Charango sounds reminiscent of the Peruvian highlands fused with the Mediterranean. It sets the scene for a song mapping times when, “who told me about love? Ay, If I was only certain”, when solitude and nostalgia seem preferable to love itself. Then the cool piano of Distancia (Distance), with its flashes of trumpet serenades the “woman of honey” separated by emotional and physical distance.
With its dramatic filmic opening El Alma (The Soul) a song of trespassing love, tells of fears of losing the soul – “tomorrow I don’t know if I will know how to sing you this song if I am missing those feelings”: just hear that flamenco style plea at the suspenseful end, a brooding cry to ‘return me my soul’.
Ella es Así (She’s Like That) captures the image of a ‘dangerous’ woman who, “deserves a song – in homage and complaint”.
The jaunty Espejismo (Mirrors) with its beautiful flute lines, was composed by Alvarez for his wife Yilene. He uses his trademark nightingale tremelo to tell of finally leaving illusions aside. Its’ glorious chorus seals, “magic inside my songs again”,
The plucked guitar and Italianate serenading laúd accompaniment for La Tarde (The Evening) evokes the wistfulness of twilight, a magical time, sacred for when the composing muse appears.
Lluvia (Rain), a setting of a poem by Omar Estrada, patterns a Mediterranean feel for when elusive dreams manifest themselves in disquieting emotions conjured up by the falling rain. Mujer (Woman) with its opening, “I’m going to love you woman although not forever” is written for the mother of Alvarez’ eldest daughter, a “fabulous woman and excellent friend”. Musa del Río (River Muse), a title with Afro-Cuban orisha deity echoes, diverts us into a childlike world of fantasy and fable, searching for music’s wellspring. Trovador (Troubadour) tells a deceptively simple tale, about not being judged by appearances. It marks a moment in 1995 when Alvarez found himself singing in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, with his accompanying musicians where they were almost denied their place to perform. Sanity prevailed as this song bears witness! Finally Y no sé qué pasa (I Don’t Know What Happened) is David’s shout to life itself: for the times one can feel alone when one considers that one has given everything one has to offer yet not received what one hoped.
Recorded in half a dozen studios including that of Manolito Simonet as well as his own home-studio, we have 15 songs that map emotions, hopes and dreams. It’s a bold narrative of having almost lost love through mis-adventure, and then the blessing of having it restored. Ay mi amor!
His new CD “Clan Destino” due to be released internationally in February 2012.