The three-time Grammy-nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre is one the hottest young Latin bands today. Equally at home in concert halls, jazz clubs and dance venues, Tiempo Libre’s Miami-based members are true modern heirs to the rich tradition of the music of their native Cuba. Classically trained at Cuba’s premiere conservatories, today, the group is a hit in the U.S. and abroad, celebrated for its incendiary, joyful performances of timba, an irresistible, dance-inducing mix of high-voltage Latin jazz and the seductive rhythms of son.
The group’s new Sony Masterworks timba recording, My Secret Radio, will be released May 3, 2011. The album pays homage to Tiempo Libre’s teenage years in Cuba, a time when the government forbade its citizens to listen to American music and Russian had pulled its support from the island. Inspired by their Afro-Cuban tradition, but eager to catch the new trends and sounds coming from the U.S., Tiempo Libre’s members would fashion homemade antennas and secretly listen to the music pulsating from Miami radio stations at night. These secret radio sessions fueled Tiempo Libre’s dreams of living in America, free to perform their songs and build the careers they wanted while helping them gather the strength that it took to leave it all behind – families, friends, a country, a life – to pursue those dreams. The CD is their tribute to the many powerful voices, including Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Gloria Estefan and Earth Wind & Fire, that rocked their world. The album features guest performances by jazz singer Rachelle Fleming and reunites Tiempo Libre founder Jorge Gomez with the legendary Cuban songstress Albita.
Tiempo Libre’s first recording for Sony Masterworks, Bach in Havana, was nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Tropical Latin Album” and featured tracks with Paquito D’Rivera and Yosvany Terry. The CD, a fusion of Bach with Afro-Cuban rhythms, reflects the duality of Tiempo Libre’s childhood days studying classical music and nights spent playing timba music. Released in May, 2009, the album received airplay on more than 200 radio stations, was hailed by Latin Jazz Network as “a landmark recording in the sense that Miles Davis's Kind of Blue was approximately 50 years ago” and was selected as a best pick in new Latin music by The Miami Herald. The group performed “Tu Conga Bach” from the CD on the October 27, 2009 Dancing with the Stars. In conjunction with the release of Bach in Havana, the family behind Bustelo Café – for the first time in 80 years – changed its Bustelo Café coffee can to feature Tiempo Libre with a free music download.
Tiempo Libre was invited to collaborate on the duet “Para Ti” with violinist Joshua Bell, which was featured on Bell’s September album At Home with Friends. The group also performed the track with Bell on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, the January 21st Live From Lincoln Center: Joshua Bell @ Home with Friends PBS Special and on WNYC radio’s popular program Soundcheck. In the fall of 2008, Tiempo Libre brought its dynamic Afro-Cuban beat to leading flutist Sir James Galway’s album, O’Reilly Street, released by the RCA Red Seal label. The album features an exciting new Latin jazz arrangement of music from the Claude Bolling Jazz Suites including “Baroque and Blue”, as well as a timba take on Bach's “Badinerie” and a number of vibrant new compositions all by Tiempo Libre’s musical director and pianist Jorge Gomez. The result is rich in the traditions of multiple genres, authentic yet emotionally seductive, transcending the borders between classical, jazz and Cuban music.
Tiempo Libre’s members were all enjoying thriving careers in Latin music performing, touring and recording with such artists as Albita, Cachao, Arturo Sandoval, NG La Banda, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Isaac Delgado, when the seven extraordinary musicians came together to realize their collective musical dream: to create the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the United States. Their eagerness to share their music with others led these multi-talented individuals to come together between projects to develop their new style together, hence the name Tiempo Libre (Free Time).
Since their formation in 2001, the members of Tiempo Libre have been on a mission: to share the musical heritage in which they grew up with as wide an audience as possible, reinterpreting and reinvigorating traditional Cuban music with a youthful, modern sound and forging a new style born from the meeting of their Cuban roots and their new American experience. In Summer 2002, at the group’s Ravinia Festival debut opening for Celia Cruz, Tiempo Libre dazzled a crowd of more than 12,000 people. They were quickly reengaged by Ravinia for Summer 2003, where they shared a bill with Aretha Franklin, performing before an enthusiastic crowd of 20,000. Summer 2003 also included performances at the new Heineken Jazz Festival in Hua Hin, Thailand where Tiempo Libre were the undeniable sensation of the Festival. Return trips to Asia have included sold out shows at Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing Theatre and the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, the glorious concert hall at the foot of the famous twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and at the 2005 Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. Since that time, the group’s busy touring schedule in the United States has included performances at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Miami’s JVC Jazz Festival, Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA, SOB’s in New York City, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Celebrate Brooklyn, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Festival International de Louisiane, Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, the Lincoln Theater in Napa Valley, Boston’s Sculler’s Jazz Club, Society of the Performing Arts in Houston, Kimmel Center, Orange County Performing Arts Center, California Center for the Arts, New Haven Jazz Festival, California World Fest, Lotus Music Festival, New York’s River-to-River Festival at the South Street Seaport, as well as the Colorado, Interlochen, Green and Eastern music festivals. August, 2005 brought Tiempo Libre’s European debut. Among the highlights of that tour, was Tiempo Libre’s performance at the closing concert of the new Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy where the band wowed a sold-out house. Subsequent tours have brought sold-out houses in Italy, Greece and Turkey.
Tiempo Libre is: Musical Director Jorge Gomez on keyboard; Raúl Rodríguez, trumpet; Leandro Gonzalez, congas; Wilvi Rodriguez Guerra, bass; Armando (Pututi) Arce, drums; Joaquin (El Kid) Diaz, lead vocal; and Luis Beltran Castillo, saxophone & flute.
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