GRAMMY®-nominated Cuban son group founded by master musician & son originator Ignacio Piñeiro
Thursday-Friday, Nov 21-22 - open dance floor
Thursday, Nov 21
Friday, Nov 22
10pm $26 - PLAZACuba after-party
The history of the Septeto Nacional is closely associated with one musician - who if he were a Pope for Cuban Son would long since have been canonized - Ignacio Piñeiro, an excellent sonero, singer and composer lived in Pueblo Nuevo, the black quarter of the city. Even as a child, Ignacio Piñeiro sang in choirs and played drums with the Afro-Cuban cabildos. Then he formed his own first line up, Los Roncos, the Hoarse Ones, for which he composed choir music. In 1926, he played bass with the Sexteto Occidente, whose leader was Maria Teresa Vera.
Piñeiro traveled to New York with this sextet and on his return to Havana, he immediately set about making history with Son. In 1927, together with the troubadours Juan Ignacio de la Cruz Hermida, Bienvenido León Chacón and Alberto Villalon - who until then had performed as a trio - plus the tres player Francisco González and José Manuel Incharta on bongos, Piñeiro founded the Sexteto Nacional. Colombia Records in Havana had been eagerly searching for a band capable of competing with the Sexteto Habanero, who were under contact to RCA Victor.
Not only did Piñeiro write countless sones for his sextet - which became a septet only a few months later with the cornet player Lázaro Herrera - he also played bass in the new line up. The Septeto National played around the clock on all Havana`s radio stations and gave concerts on public squares and in theatres; the capital city was raving about the new sound - a Son cubano, certainly, but not the simple form brought from Santiago to Havana by the troubadours, but more refined, with a cornet and artistically arranged harmonious parts, strongly syncopated and eminently danceable, like Piñeiro's greatest hit "Échale salsita" - this Son is regarded as the original form of salsa.
The Septeto Nacional's turnover in musicians was so fast that one scarcely knew who to expect on stage when the Septeto Nacional was finally announced. That same year Ignacio Piñeiro left his septet, who had to assert themselves against the competition of innumerable Son formations. Despite all the concerts and radio broadcasts, the musicians earned very little, and Piñeiro gave up for financial reasons. Lázaro Herrera took his place, but the Septeto Nacional could only keep its head above water for another two years; the famous septet was disbanded in 1937. In 1940, the singer and sonero Miguelito Valdés brought the septet together once again for a recording session.
The fourth generation of the Septeto National can certainly stand up to comparison with the legendary band`s original lineup. All the musicians are excellent instrumentalists and inspired Soneros, who play the fresh-sounding arrangements, as if a time machine had catapulted the original Septeto to this century. It is always a risk to do new recordings of 70-year-old classics, which even the children in Cuba know, true to the original and yet filtered through time. When such an enterprise succeeds, one can only speak of a rare and almost philosophical stroke of luck. And here we have that stroke of luck (thanks be to the Orishas!).
There is nothing at all outmoded about sones like "No juegues con los Santos" or Piñeiro`s hypnotic "Coco mai mai," which have been kept close to the original. One could almost swear that were the original Septeto Nacional founded not in 1927 but in 2009, that is to say, after mambo, cha-cha-cha, descargas, salsa and Latin-jazz, they would sound just like this. And this is due, apart from the clever arrangements and the top-notch musicians, above all to the smoky voice of the lead singer, Raspa.
Note: Biography/history from album liner notes to "Mas Cuba Libres" - Septeto Nacional and Guests. Produced by Gloria Ochoa, Ignacio Ayme Castro and Christian Scholze, 1999.