Between our government’s foolish embargo and the proliferation of watered-down pop salsa, many of Cuba’s most potent musical traditions have lost their currency. And though he’s been living in London for the past four years, trumpeter Jesus Alema–y seems hell-bent on resuscitating them. On the two albums by his 14-piece band, Cubanismo!, Alema–y is the primary voice in a fiery front line that weaves its way through a variety of Cuban rhythms, both in original tunes and classics. Some of the rhythms, like the son montuno and the guaguanco, are still ubiquitous in Caribbean music, but several others, like the pa’ca and the pilon, are rarely heard anymore. While plenty of Cuban musicians continue to draw on native traditions while playing Latin jazz, in many cases they no longer mean to make people dance, and it’s Alema–y’s insistence on reviving this function that really sets Cubanismo! apart. (That’s not to say the group hesitates to show off its instrumental chops–in descargas, or jam sessions, the members deliver solo after pungent solo.) The group features expat pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, former Irakere flutist Orlanda “Maraca” Valle, a three-man percussion team that has a reputation outside the band, and the singer Rojitas, who croons like a pop idol. The group’s Chicago debut last year drew nothing but raves. Thursday, June 25, 8 and 10 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joe Boyd.