Cuba Headlines

Cuba News, Breaking News, Articles and Daily Information

New six-disc boxed set by the Cuban bandleader and guitarist Arsenio Rodríguez
First, it gets the stuff out there, collecting in one place nearly every scrap of music Rodríguez made for RCA Victor between 1940 to 1956, before he left Cuba for good (for New York and Los Angeles). His music has not previously been so well documented, in a large-canvas, year-by-year sense, and RCA has been a poor custodian of it. Second, it treats Rodríguez with a care equal to his importance, with dozens of pictures, extensive information on every recording session, a short biography in Spanish and English.

Rodríguez (1911-1970) played the tres, a Cuban guitar with three pairs of like-tuned strings. He was blind, and, to simplify grandly, the Chuck Berry figure of Cuban dance music, establishing its lasting parameters. His band recorded romantic boleros as a matter of course, but in the early 40s he was also the significant architect of son montuno. He solidified its instrumentation and arrangement into a recognizable form, which you will know instinctively if youve heard any of the New York salsa that drew from it 30 years later. It has two-bar calls-and-responses between voices and trumpets near the beginning, then a buildup into a collective improvisation, which Rodríguez called the diablo, with the bass player accenting the up-beats, working the negative space, giving the music kinetic mystery.

Aside from all this, Rodríguez was a wizardly and instantly instructive guitarist. When he solos here, as in "Cero Guapos en Yateras," "El Cerro Tiene la Llave," "No Toque el Guao" and dozens of other tunes, you respond. If you are a guitar player, it will make you want to play. If you are a dancer, it will make you want to dance. He makes you begin to hear rhythm as he does; he improves you.


Related News