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Irakere – Cuba Libre review

Recorded at a time when Japan was in the midst of an intense love affair with all things jazz-funk, this long lost album by Cuban band Irakere (which was recorded in Japan in 1980) has been lovingly brought back into stock by the diggers supreme at Far Out Records.

Having formed in Cuba in 1973, Irakere brought their fusion of jazz and Afro-Cuban funk to these recordings, which were put together by Japanese bandleader Chikara Ueda (notable for having been sampled by Phoenix on “If I Ever Feel Better”). The recordings certainly bear a distinctive Japanese quality to the production (sounding similar to Sadao Watanabe’s 80’s output), but Irakere’s funk certainly punches through as well. Opener “Cuba Libre” sounds like an out-take from Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly sessions complete with some tight Latin percussion, while “Sea Mail” is looser and blessed with some inspired alto-sax solo’s.

The calm and sanguine “Que Pasa?” really shows off the clarity and perfection of the recording techniques, with every rim shot and guitar pluck picked up perfectly and clearly – rarely has this style of music been recorded in such a meticulous way. “Gospelanza” is another real highlight, as two separate pianos panned left and right duel with each other before the brass takes over and does the same. It’s a magic moment on an album full of unexpected delights – a very worthwhile reissue indeed.

Review: Oliver Keens