Nunca Tarde – a round-up of recent new albums (Tiganá Santana, Juan Pablo Torres, New Regency Orchestra, Flavia Coelho, Los Master Plus and more)

By 14 June, 2024

Heeerrrre we go again! as Chuck Brown tells a steaming Go-Go crowd on the Soul Searchers’ Live ’87 album. Yes folks, it’s time once more for another batch of the finest, freshest new music on offer within (and without) the Latin world.

Lauren Henderson: Sombras (Brontosaurus Records)

Heralded by DownBeat as a “vibrant new star singer”, the vocalist and songwriter with the very North American name explores her varied roots in Panama, Montserrat and the Caribbean on her new album of nine original compositions. The title translates as “Shadows” and, as it suggests, this is a highly atmospheric affair in which the singer’s dreamy vocals and her refined jazz combo featuring Joel Ross’s erudite vibraphone conspire to cast a quietly hypnotic spell. Sung in English and Spanish, the songs explore the artist’s own heritage and the balance between the seen and the unseen. They exude a mesmerising cinematic quality that underlines why her compositions have featured in four different films. A tasty concoction.

Tiganá Santana: Caçada Noturna (Ajabu! Records)

Tasty, tasteful and delicate are bywords for the musical fare of the singer-songwriter from Salvador, Brazil. Occasionally, though, that fare can be a little too nouvelle cuisine in its approach, leaving you hungry and a teeny bit dissatisfied. The recent collaboration with the peripatetic Cuban pianist Omar Sosa was a resounding return to form, which almost scaled the giddy heights of Santana’s sophomore album, The Invention of Colour. The new album, his fourth for the Swedish label, is a little on the brief side, but the music is gorgeous, reinforcing the return to form. Numbers like “O Amor Simples” and “O Véu”, on which Santana shares vocal duties with Fabiana Cozza, are lovely enough to render you incapacitated.

Pedro Miranda: Atlântica Senhora (Biscoito Fino)

The Brazilian singer-songwriter and percussionist has been putting out a string of singles from his fifth album which I’ve somehow managed to miss. A shame, since the album reveals them as uniformly worthy and rather lovely in a quiet, traditional way befitting his choice of accompanists and choice of non-original songs by the likes of Paulinho da Viola, Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque. Never mind, the album’s out now and although I can’t tell you much about it due to my guesswork-level Portuguese, I can urge you to listen to this elegant and classy release.

Juan Pablo Torres: Algo Nuevo and Super Son (Mr. Bongo)

Before we get too bogged down in good taste, let’s take a diversion by way of Cuba, in the form of trombonist Juan Pablo Torres. A little confusingly, Mr. Bongo has reissued for the invaluable Cuban Classics series not one but two of the albums the director of the Cuban all-star conglomerate, Estrellas de Areito (among other strings to his musical bow), recorded for the state-owned Areiro label back in the ’70s. Super Son dates from 1977, while Algo Nuevo was released the following year. Both retain an indigenous identity while being heavily influenced by the musical Zeitgeist, with strains of disco and funk and the sounds of synths and psychedelic fuzzed-out guitars hitched to top-notch Cuban brass and percussion. Of the two, the earlier record has arguably the more distinct personality, largely because of the very prominent distorted guitar throughout and the quality of the leader’s trombone playing, but both are most welcome additions to the cannon and every bit as essential in their way as the label’s two recent Irakere reissues.

New Regency Orchestra: New Regency Orchestra (Mr. Bongo)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if there’s anything more exciting in life than a jazz big band, it’s a Latin big band. They may be based in London, but the 18-piece New Regency Orchestra can transport you to post-war Cuba in the blast of a horn section. I’ve been reviewing their steady stream of singles and banging on about the forthcoming album for what seems like months. Now that their eponymous debut has arrived, I can tell you that it was well worth the wait. And its weight in gold, for that matter. The brainchild and artistic director of Lex Blondin, co-founder of the Church of Sound venue in Clapton, East London, the orchestra is dedicated to the explosive Afro-Cuban sounds of post-war Havana and New York. It’s full-on brash, brassy music to dance to that could almost trick you into thinking that Machito’s Afro-Cubans are still going strong.  

Sonora Nelson Ferreyra: Guaracheros (Vampisoul)

From the recent crop of Munster Records and Vampisoul reissues, my favourite is this slice of Cuban son processed by this Peruvian outfit for the MAG label way back in 1961. Whether performing their original compositions or the six versions (four of which derive from Cuba), Nelson Ferreyra’s sonora kick up quite a rumpus, with a blazing trumpet section that frequently leaves a taste of Mexican mariachi music. What they lack in originality, they make up for in gusto as they work their way through a varied repertoire of popular Latin genres.

Los Master Plus: Va En Serio (Nacional Records)

I reviewed the Mexican band’s single “Manos Vacías” back in May. I like the cut of their jib: they seem to specialise in transforming songs into Spanish and into various Latin genres by means of an instrumentation that features prominent tuba and assorted brass deriving from their Banda origins. I’m particularly fond of this piece of hefty cumbia. With so much rhythmic brass, it puts me in mind, unsurprisingly I suppose, of Taraf De Haidouks and Romany-Balkan music in general.

DJ Raff: Encontrar (Nacional Records)

Something else from Nacional Records now. This Chilean DJ and producer makes what has been described as “lysergic, low-slung dance music to lose yourself to.” Based with his family in London for the last seven years, Encontrar represents first full-length album since Movimiento in October, 2017. Nearly seven years ago, in fact. He fashioned this mixture of raw electronic sounds fused with samples of various Afro-Latin cultures in his home studio and the result is admittedly “low-slung”, but quietly compelling. Suitable maybe for a soft-shoe shuffle around the sitting room just before bedtime.

Jesus Molina: Selah (Dynamo Records)

By way of complete contrast comes this Colombian pianist’s debut album. Something of a wunderkind in the Jacob Collier mould, Molina is an alumnus of Berklee College of Music and a darling of the internet, with a million Instagram followers and hundreds and thousands of YouTube devotees. And if that’s not enough, he’s also won a Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation Award. Clearly a talented young man who also happens to play the saxophone. You can watch his one-man horn section on this video of one of the album’s singles – and wonder at the technology and the talent. The album features 10 original compositions and no doubt because of his Latin roots, there’s more than a hint of Chick Corea circa Return to Forever. All I can say is look out Jamie Cullum: there’s a new kid on the block.

Flavia Coelho: GINGA ([PIAS] Le Label)

A pair of Brazilian expatriate singer-songwriters now. First up, the irrepressible Ms. Coelho, who has come up with a typically jaunty and vivacious album in the company of her long-time producer and arranger, Victor Vagh-Weinmann, whom she met in the early days of her domicile in France. Now 43, she suggests perceptively that “we live our first twenty years, then the next twenty serve to understand the first twenty.” Accordingly, the album is dedicated to the music of her 1990s youth in which she immersed herself to sketch these 10 new songs. For a couple of years, she even apparently earned a living performing Anglophone hits by learning the lyrics phonetically, despite a total lack of English. Flavia Coelho is like a fine wine: she gets better with age and maturity, while never losing the youthful flavours that defined her. GINGA feels like her best album to date, a tonic for the soul. Here’s a live version of the “focus track” that will give you a whiff of the album’s bouquet.

Lau Ro: Cabana (Far Out Recordings)

Meanwhile, just across the Channel in Brighton, Ms. Coelho’s compatriot has come up with a debut album that Gilles Peterson has described as “beautiful new music”. He’s not wrong. The 10 compositions marry folk, bossa, tropicália and MPB with a pinch of psychedelia in much the way that Sessa, Bruno Berle and other young tyros have managed of late. Not all of the songs cohere quite as beautifully and as convincingly as do some – like, say, “Assim” or “Diferente” or the sumptuous “Onde Eu Vou” – but it’s altogether a very promising initial outing that suggests more in the future from the Brighton-based Brazilian songster.

Pradarrum: Matriarcas (Edmilia Barros Digital)

And just before we take our leave of musical things Brazilian, here’s something that actually came out (in Brazil, anyway) at the end of March. Pradarrum is the group formed by veteran master percussionist, Gabi Guedes. Matriarcas is the group’s debut album and generally very good it is, too. Guedes started his studies in percussion from age 10 and since then he has collaborated during a career of almost half a century with the likes of Margareth Menezes, Hermeto Pascoal and Jimmy Cliff. Listen to this focus track from the album and you can appreciate why he has been and is in demand. On this and tracks like “Gabi’s Groove”, the band achieves a winning amalgam of jazz-funk and Afro-Brazilian religious rhythms.


Here’s one more – released today – that I’d like to mention this time rather than wait for next month, since I’ve been listening to it for several weeks.

Grupo Polo Montañez: Joyaz del Guajiro (Lusafrica)

These 10 numbers associated with the singer and composer Fernando Borrego Linares, who went by the name of Polo Montañez, were recorded in Havana. “If I don’t compose, if I don’t sing, I don’t exist anymore,” Montañez once said. Alas, it’s already 22 years since he ceased to exist after a tragic road accident and 24 years since the album, Guajiro Natural (also for Lusafrica), defined him as (rather more than) “an ordinary country bloke” and made him an overnight success-story in Cuba and Colombia. Without him, his backing band found it hard to keep going, but with fresh new vocalists they have re-formed, toured internationally in recent times and become the keepers of a flame kept alive every June in the festival “Jolgorio Polo Montañez”. This album fans that flame in a way that would have delighted the “ordinary bloke” from the Rosario mountains. It is indeed just that: a delight.

And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen. And if you’ll excuse me please, I’ll go back to Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers. Sometimes one needs a little break from all this wonderful Latin music.

(Tiganá Santana photo courtesy of José de Holanda)

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