Artist: Roberto Fonseca
Label: Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, MP3, LP
Release date: October 18, 2019
Grammy-nominated Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, known for experimenting with African and diasporic genres, offers his eleventh solo album, Yesun. On his previous releases, Yo (2013) and At Home: Live in Marciac (2014), we heard Fonseca’s use of diverse musical styles to express his artistic voice. Yesun retains this sense of taking “more risks, breaking new ground,” as he situates his music—and the music of Cuba—in an ongoing inter-diasporic musical dialogue. The 13-track album features Fonseca’s long-standing trio, the prominent Cuban female a cappella group Gema 4, acclaimed trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, rising Cuban rapper Danay Suárez, and Grammy-winning saxophonist Joe Lovano.
The word “Yesun,” according to Fonseca, “represents water. Water can go all over to reach all places. It can change from liquid to solid. This is what I want to do with my music.” This sentiment is felt throughout the entire project. The opening track, “La Llamada,” utilizes a specific ostinato rhythm that alludes to certain musical genres and styles. One could speculate that Fonseca’s ambiguity is meant as a stream that connects the diverse communities across the diaspora. “Motown” and “Clave” further exhibit this notion of flowing from one musical expression to another through the blending of funk and R&B styles with Afro-Cuban rumba and percussive rhythms. Additionally, we see Fonseca’s continued commitment to the dissemination of Afro-Cuban musical practices. Songs like “Kachucha,” “Aggua,” “Mambo pa la Niña,” and “No Soy de Esos,” include an array of styles from the gamut of the Afro-Cuban music.
To quote France’s Le Figaro, “Fonseca is [gifted] at doing something new with the old, without ever denying its origins, and opens himself to the world.” Yesun is a great sonic example of Fonseca’s creative ingenuity and musical versatility. I highly recommend this album!
Reviewed by Jamaal Baptiste