At 22 years old, the Cuban-born chanteuse already has an impressive musical curriculum vitae — arranger, composer, vocalist and choir director — and the fearless yet calculated methodology behind the music belies her relative newness to the musical scene.
Well versed in filin — the Cuban romantic ballad style that melded mid-20th century American jazz with local bolero and canción sensibilities — Arocena leverages Afro-Cuban rhythms with a modern cadence. A track like "Drama" is straight up contemporary jazz, with the rich timbre of Arocena's vocal approach punctuated by bold bass and playful piano elements. English is clearly not her first language, making numbers like the uptempo "Don't Unplug My Body" and ballad "Dust" feel a tad restrictive, but title track "Nueva Era" feels lush and dreamy, "Come to Me" comes wrapped in slinky vocals and soothing keys and the Latin feel of "El Ruso" feels smoky and sensual.
Nueva Era is an agreeable debut and one that breathlessly reveals that Arocena still has space to grow and mature as she continues to master her craft. (Brownswood)