Friday 27 May 2016

On Stage: Richard Bona and Mandekan Cubano @ Paradiso

It's been a few years since jazz musician Richard Bona, originally from Cameroon, visited our country especially for a club show. With a new album entitled Heritage coming up with Mandekan Cubano, it is high time to see this wonderful artist again who is considered one of the best bass players in the world.

Richard Bona and Mandekan Cubano at Paradiso Amsterdam, May 25 2016

His new album is an Afro-Cuban project where he explores the tight connection between African and Cuban music, which indeed have a lot in common. The sextet Mandekan Cubano consists of some amazing musicians and musical heavy weights, including two of the best percussionists Roberto Quintero and his cousin Luisito. It means all ingredients are in place for a wonderful evening and with the charismatic Bona on stage this is guaranteed. This man radiates positive vibes and sheer joy, chatting and interacting with the crowd as if we're having a drink together but at the same time making sure people don't lose attention. As he points out himself it is a noisy crowd and he needs to get the noise down a few times when he's about to play an intimate quiet song.

But for the rest he turns the night into a big dancing party, with explosive compositions that get the best out of every musician. All of them get plenty of playing time and solos to show their best stuff. Osmany Paredes, behind a large triplex screen with his grand piano, is playing lush latin parts. Trumpet player Dennis Hernandez and trombone player Rey Alejandro play sparkling solos with lots of dynamics, whispering when they have to. The killer rhythm section with the Quintero cousins on percussion and Ludwig Afonso on drums form an incredible base and keep it grooving and swinging.

Bona himself is never really showing off his bass skills but keeps it functional and is acting more as the front man and band leader. Besides an incredible bass player he is also a very good singer, with that characteristic voice that gives the songs an African vibe right away, not just because he's singing in a local language. His voice is amazing and he seems to be able to bend it any possible way. A special moment happens, when he tells how surprised he was about a video he watched with a girl that performed one of his songs in his club in New York. She's here tonight and of course he invites her on stage to sing the song with them. Again he is amazed, and so are we, how good she sounds and is actually able to sing the words in the local language.

It is characteristic for this night where everything is so relaxed and people are simply enjoying the wonderful music together. Luisito Quintero gets one of the last solos of the night and plays an amazing and explosive one on timbales, showing what makes him so good. The crowd keeps shouting for more and in the end Bona returns for the final encore by himself on stage. Such a moment, like a few of those intimate ones earlier in the show, when he gets everyone to be quiet and listen breathlessly to his lovely voice, gets more impact because of the swinging songs in the rest of the set. Richard Bona has shown us the best of Cuban and African music tonight and how wonderful they blend together. Please don't keep us waiting for so many years again and come back soon Richard!

All Pictures

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