Music review: Juan de Marcos Afro-Cuban All Stars

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

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.

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.

FIONA SHEPHERD