Sunlightsquare Latin Combo – Havana Combo
Having formed in 2004, this London based Latin collective are best known for the single “Amuyada” and their cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise”. They’re much loved by fans of funk, Latin and soul and have had plenty of support along the way from Gilles Peterson among others. This latest record was recorded in Cuba at the famous Radio Rebelde studio and it seems to have given them a whole new lease of life.
From the very start you can hear the inspiration seeping into the tracks. Opening song “La Banda” is a kaleidoscopic explosion of ideas, almost worthy of 50s exotica composer Esquivel for the sheer amount of verve bursting out of all 20 of the players. Title track “Havana Central” settles nicely into a groove, giving ample space for the soloists to show off and also keeping things tight with some sung choruses.
First single “I Believe In Miracles” will be the jewel in the crown though for funk fans. A cover of the rare groove and b-boy classic by The Jackson Sisters, the SLC transform it into an explosive Latin romp that loses none of its sparkle transposed into a different genre. The more jazz structured slower songs, such as “Bebidas Para Ti”, again give the musicians ample space to impress on the wide variety of instruments at their disposal. The other immediate go-to track must be their version of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, with a Herb Albert-style trumpet taking the lead melody, and a delicate but riveting backing from the rest of the combo. With such an accessible pathway into this tremendous album, there’s really no excuse for not succumbing to its huge charm.
Review: Oliver Keens