Classico Latino’s “Havana Classic” Review


Classico Latino recently released “Havana Classic“, their new album that combines Latin and Classical music.

Never heard of Classico Latino? I hadn’t either until Julian Forbes approached me to listen to this album, which I found refreshingly good. The concept is interesting and the music well balanced.

Have you ever wanted to hear some soft music to relax, wind down, or as a background over dinner? You may have considered that smooth jazz may be too sleepy and Latin Jazz still too rowdy for your mood. If so, then you might want to consider a new concept. Not too smooth, not too hard, but (as the Three Bears story goes) just right.

The Classico Latino Concept

So it turns out that back in 1998 two music students met by serendipity and decided to start playing around with the music each of them loved. Colombian pianist Ivan Guevara and English cellist Graham Walker began to experiment by playing Latin songs with classical instruments. They liked the sound that came out of that experiment, and began adding other musicians that like them, liked both musical worlds.

They added Barbara Dziewiecka and Harriet Mackenzie on violin, Andria Antoniou on vocals, Cubans Rey Crespo and (later) Jimmy Martinez on bass, and Wilmer Sifontes on percussion.

This ensemble can produce incredibly sounding music. The cool thing is that they mostly use the Latin American songbook to adapt them to their unique mix of Latin and Classical music. Based on what I heard in Havana Classic, they seem to have figured out the right mix of each influence and instrument, to make music that is both fun and pleasant to listen to, without having to be a Classical music enthusiast.

The video below is an interview with Ivan and Graham talking about Classico Latino.

“Havana Classic”, the (Mostly) Cuban Songbook

“Havana Classic” is the 6th recording by Classico Latino, and I’ll admit is the only one I’ve listen to. But now I’m quickly moving on to the others, starting with the Christmas one (“Navidad con Classico Latino“) since we’re in the season.

Havana Classic album cover
“Havana Classic” is the 6th recording of Classico Latino, a creative and refreshing group.

This album includes 13 mostly Cuban classics, recorded in the legendary EGREM recording studio in Havana, Cuba. For this album, Classico Latino special guests Omar Puente (Violin), Rey Crespo (Bass), Alina Torres (Vocals), Alberto Muguercia Ramos, Edgar Martinez Ochoa de Zabalegi (Percussion), Juan de la Cruz Artimachi “Coto” (Tres, Marimbula & Guiro).

All arrangements were done by Graham Walker except “Siboney” which was arranged by Rey Crespo.

I was very curious from the very first song, “Quimbara“. How could an ensemble like this approach such a fast rumba like the classic Celia Cruz song? Well, they got my attention from the very beginning and never lost it through the album.

Remember I said the album was made of “mostly” Cuban classics? This is because “Campanitas de Cristal” was written by Puerto Rican Rafael Hernandez. I love the fact that they included the “Se Quema la Chumbamba” from the Familia Valera-Miranda, of which I just blogged about in Kiki Valera album review.

I think it is best if you see and listen to Classico Latino’s version of the Cuban classic “La Comparsa“.

Before “Havana Classic”

I liked “Havana Classic” because of the overall concept and the quality of the music. I find it a refreshing concept well-conceived by Ivan and Graham. I liked “Havana Classic” so much I’m going to check out the rest of their discography.

Besides the Christmas album I already mentioned, they also have one recorded another legendary recording studio. “Journey Through Latin America” was recorded in Abby Road Studios (yes, where the Beatles used to record) and has Andres Cepeda as one of the special guests. I definitely will be checking it out.

So here I share the video of “Campanitas de Cristal“. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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