FRANCISCO CÉSPEDES – (Francisco Céspedes Mixtape)
Francisco Céspedes Fabian Rodriguez was born in Santa Clara, Cuba and eventually became a physician. However his heart was in music and during a musical tour to Mexico, Francisco decided to stay in Mexico and pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Francisco’s career as a solo recording artist started in 1998 with the release of his debut Vida Loca and continued through the next decade with eight releases culminating with Te Acuerdas in 2009. There is also a newly issued twenty greatest hits compilation, 20 Grandes Exitos (2011). I have not been able to find much information in English on Francisco and my rudimentary Spanish vocabulary is extremely limited so I can not tell you much about the trajectory of his career or even delve into the meaning of his lyrics. What I respond to is the emotional depth of his music. Francisco makes popular music that includes reinterpretations of classics such as “Besame Mucho” and “Drume Negrita.” Francisco is a veteran of the Cuban “filin” musical development which mixed jazz and popular Cuban music, and as such, Francisco’s music has a depth that studio manufactured popular music tends to lack. A close analogy in terms of approach but not necessarily in terms of style might be drawn between Francisco and, for example, Lou Rawls who started out in gospel, transitioned to jazz and make a major mark as a popular entertainer. Two of Francisco’s albums have caught my ear: …Ay Corazon (2002) and Con el Permiso de Bola (2007). Corazon exemplifies Céspedes' songwriting chops and his ability to produce romantic and passionately expressive music that captures our attention without the excesses of melodrama so common in popular music. Céspedes wrote eight of the eleven songs on Corazon and they prove to be considerable compositions. Certainly the music on this album has won Céspedes a legion of admirers as Céspedes displays the breadths and depths of his multifaceted talent. His robust baritone is magnificent and some of the melodies capture the soaring exhilaration commonly felt and expressed by those in love. Permiso de Bola is a complex album that pairs Francisco with Cuban piano genius Gonzalo Rubalcaba in a program of music that pays tribute to an earlier Cuban entertainer, pianist and vocalist, Ignacio Jacinto Villa (1911 – 1971) who was popularly known as Bola de Nieve (“Snow Ball”). Nieve might be likened to a Fats Waller or a Louis Armstrong in both his physical appearance and his skills as both a pianist and a vocalist, as well as because of his popularity as an entertainer who was both technically accomplished as a musician and captivating as an entertainer. Gonzalo is considered the best contemporary jazz pianist from Cuba and although the focus remains very much on Francisco, Gonzalo’s contributions are massive in making this a deeply satisfying session. Adding to the thrill of the recording is a final selection in which the voice of Bola de Nieve is engineered into Céspedes ’ interpretation of “Drume Negrita,” a song that was strongly associated with Nieve. All of the music on this album comes from the treasure house of Cuban composers from an earlier era including a number of compositions by Bola de Nieve himself. I prefer jazz for my personal enjoyment and spiritual edification, thus it is no surprise that Permiso de Bola appeals to me, but I must say that I am also very, very impressed by Corazon. While not considered a superstar by the measurement of international record sales, Francisco Céspedes belongs in the pantheon of musical figures who are popularizing music that has both a wide appeal and profound depth. If you have not heard him before, please hear him now. Francisco Céspedes, one of the great singer/songwriters of this new millennium. —Kalamu ya Salaam Francisco Céspedes Mixtape Playlist Dicen Que El Alma – Grandes Exitos 01 “Todo Es Un Misterio” 02 “Vida Loca” 03 “Remolino” 04 “Morena” 05 “Nadie Como Tu” 06 “Dicen Que El Alma” 07 “Donde Esta La Vida” 08 “Pensar En Ti” 09 “Remolino (Con Ana Belen)” 10 “Vida Loca (Con Milton Nascimento)” Donde Esta La Vida 11 “Así Es Mi Música” 12 “Otra Lagrima” Autorretrato 13 “Besame Mucho” 14 “Patria Divina” Ay Corazon 15 “Atame La Mirada” 16 “Te Soñé, Lluvia De Abril” 17 “Cuando Al Corazón Le Duele El Alma” 18 “Qué Hacemos Con La Vida” 19 “Luna” 20 “No Será Una Pena” 21 “Cómo Hacer Para Empezar” Con El Permiso De Bola 22 “Adios Felicidad” 23 “Ay, Amor” 24 “La Flor de la Canela” 25 “Alma Mia” 26 “Ausencia” 27 “Bola de Nieve” 28 “Drume Negrita (A Duo Con Bola de Nieve)”
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