The legacy of the Afro-Cuban All Stars lives on with a live release that finds the big band firing all on cylinders. The live project — recorded on tour during a two-night stint in Mexico — reflects how much it's evolved since its inception in the mid-1990s. Indeed, debut album A Toda Cuba le Gusta was exactly 20 years ago, and the crew are still ticking and clicking.
Bandleader Juan de Marcos González helms a 14-piece multigenerational group (including session players Raúl Planas, Pío Leyva, Manuel Licea, and Ibrahim Ferrer of Buena Vista Social Club fame, to name a few) who serve up a nearly flawless set of bolero, salsa, chachachá and rumba influences, sans tuning or overdubs. Hearing past tracks covered with nearly studio perfection — "Barbaridad," "La mujer del Barbaro" and Buena Vista Social Club standard "Candela" — generate an invigorating energy not far removed from the vibe the Mexican crowd here must have felt.
Absolutely Live II (Viva Mexico!) isn't an indispensable release, but it demonstrates nicely what the Afro-Cuban All Stars are all about. (DM Ahora!)