Music review: Juan de Marcos Afro-Cuban All Stars

BUENA Vista Social Club veteran Juan de Marcos González was quick to declare Glasgow as his favourite city '“ the whisky might just have something to do with its appeal '“ but it was clear from this Celtic Connections performance that his heart was in Havana.

Juan de Marcos Afro-Cuban All Stars
Juan de Marcos Afro-Cuban All Stars

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

For 40 years, he has been a passionate advocate of the Afro-Cuban sound and the tradition of the salsa band, upheld firstly in Sierra Maestra and now with his Afro-Cuban All Stars, whose sound is a mix of sophisticated Latin swing and full-bodied fiesta spirit with almost subsonic bass, an array of percussive timbres and a joyous brass sound to grab the soul.

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His is a family affair involving his daughters Laura and Gliceria Jr on woodwind and vibraphone respectively. Meanwhile, Gliceria, his wife of 39 years (“365 fights a year but we love each other”) presided with her silver dancing shoes on.

Their very presence was a tonic and the entire set a consistent joy but Cuban standard Lágrimas Negras (Black Tears) was a particular highlight thanks to a cheeky, snake-hipped and impressively athletic clarinet solo from Laura. Her proud father responded with a composition dedicated to her childhood naughtiness.

González also sang to his wife – it seems the secret of a long marriage is to salsa, as the pair made a great dance partnership. The audience were not far behind them, gravitating to the aisles for the whole point of this music – to move to its irresistible rhythm.