Cuban vocalist, producer and arranger Dayme Arocena has strong relationship with
Brownswood Recordings. She first graced the label in early 2015, and has since gone
in to deliver two albums and a clutch of fine singles for Gilles Peterson's imprint.
Cubafonia is Arocena's third full length, and continues in a similar vein to previous
outings. It's a rich musical tapestry, with Arocena blending traditional Cuban staples
(think mambo and rumba) with spiritual jazz, Rotary Connection style soul, Afro-Cuban
funk, tear-jerking ballads and jazz-funk. The resultant songs - all top notch - are
as steamy, humid and vibrant as you'd expect, but also boast intricate musical arrangements
and top quality musicianship.
Still in her mid-20s, Daymé Arocena is Cuba’s finest young female singer. She has
a powerful, versatile style and enormous crossover potential. Her only problem before
now is that her songwriting has not quite matched her remarkable voice, but her second
solo album helps to put that right. Like Roberto Fonseca, who invited her to sing
on his recent album, ABUC, she has decided to stress her Cuban roots on a set that
mixes dance rhythms with chanting reminders of the ceremonies of the Afro-Cuban Santería
faith, along with thrilling bursts of scat improvisation and pop melodies. The opening
Eleggua shows off her range, with its edgy riff matched against her half-spoken,
half-chanted vocals. Then she moves on to an urgent rumba workout, the lively Maybe
Tomorrow, and a rousing burst of Cuban/New Orleans jazz fusion on Mambo Na’ Mà. An
entertaining, impressively varied return.