Friday Night: Tiempo Libre at La Casa de Tula

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photo by Jose Davila
Tiempo Libre
Friday, May 27, 2009
La Casa de Tula Night Club, Calle Ocho, Miami
 
 
Better Than: Any other salsa night anywhere in town. 

The Review:

For those who really know their salsa steps there was only one place to be last Friday. And that spot, of course, was the Tiempo Libre record release party at the Casa de Tula Nightclub on Calle Ocho. 

The hard-hitting Tiempo Libre is one of Miami's most accomplished tropical orchestras. The world - touring, two - time - Grammy - nominated band has been mixing the best of vintage Cuban-style mambo with hot tropical Caribbean rhythms to worldwide acclaim. Their CD release party was the perfect time to catch them at the top of their game inside the always-red-hot Casa de Tula, the cool but steamy Calle Ocho Latin hotspot.  
The crowd inside the packed club was a mixture of old-school salsa hipsters and young urbanites. Everyone was in high spirits, and the in-house DJ kept things moving with a cool mix of tropical Top 40, bachata, and of course, some pumping reggaeton.   

At around 11 p.m., Tiempo Libre took to the tiny stage, turning the full-to-capacity club into a mini carnival. Staring with classics from their first album (the Grammy-nominated Arroz con Mango) like "Se Formo La Rumba," the orchestra energized their fans. The small set-up also made songs like the lovely "Ven Pa Miami" into intimate moments. Lead singer Joaquin Diaz, who is an astonishingly solid performer, thrilled and mesmerized the audience with his jovial, warm approach. 

With their true and tested songs from the first album out of the way, Tiempo Libre moved on to their material from Bach In Havana, their new record based on Johann Sebastian Bach classical music standards.The new numbers, with names such as "Minuet in G" and "Timbach," focus the well-known Bach compositions over Cuban grooves like timba, guaguanco, and the cha-cha-cha. 

And judging by the audience's reaction, the group's new direction is a hit. Throughout the Bach-induced numbers the elegantly dressed crowd danced and spun to Tiempo Libre's new classical-Cuban hybrid. As the band finished its first set (the musicians would come back at 1 a.m. for an encore presentation), it was clear why Tiempo Libre is so beloved all around the world. They genuinely represent the best of the Afro-Cuban musical heritage, while at the same time adding new flavors and ideas into their rhythms. 

-- Jose Davila
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