Tiempo Libre Kicks Off Jazz on the Green
Growing up in Cuba, members of the hot Miami-based Latin band, Tiempo Libre, studied classical music at Havana conservatories. Popular music was deemed subversive and thus forbidden. That included their native timba, but most especially American music.
Hungry for what they were denied, the players clambered atop roofs at night with homemade antennas to pick up faint Miami radio broadcasts. ?
The static-filled sounds of Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Manhattan Transfer and Earth Wind and Fire filled the tropical air.
"It was fuel for our dreams. It opened a new door for us," says Jorge Gomez, Tiempo Libre lead vocalist, keyboardist and musical director. "We listened, we recorded and during the day we put the music on and everybody in the neighborhood came to my house. We danced and sang and played dominos, everything. It was a new hope for us." ?
Today, Gomez and his Grammy-nominated bandmates are touting their new Afro-Cuban fusion album, My Secret Radio, and its celebration of those clandestine raves. Fresh from performing at an Italian music festival, Tiempo Libre opens the Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing season Thursday. Their pulsating rhythms begin at 7 p.m. at Turner Park (31st and Dodge Streets). ?
The band describes their gigs as parties rather than concerts, says Gomez, "because by the end of the show everybody's going to be singing and dancing with us. It happens all the time, and that's the whole idea - to have fun. It's all about the energy people are going to feel. That's the best reason to play music.”
The free performance kicks off the weekly series that runs through August 11. ?
This is Tiempo Libre's first Omaha show, but the group's well known for breakout recordings on Sony Masterworks and high profile appearances on Dancing with the Stars, the Tonight Show and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Their genre-busting work includes collaborations with classical artists Sir James Galway and Joshua Bell, and Venezuelan composer Ricardo Lorenz. ?
The band first made a splash in 2002 opening for Cuban music legend Celia Cruz.
Formed a year before, Tiempo Libre came together after its seven members separately fled Cuba. Their individual journeys included long stays in other countries before their paths merged again in 2000 in Miami. They were all working with different artists “and in our free time we came together to make the band, " says Gomez. Hence the name Tiempo Libre or “free time." ?
He’s proud the band has disproved predictions that timba cannot thrive outside Cuban-centric Miami.
“It’s fantastic the way people respond to it,” he says. Playing before enthusiastic audiences around the world, he says, “it’s incredible how beautiful the music can be between people who don't even speak the same language.”
By mixing timba with other styles, Tiempo Libre breaks down artificial barriers, as in the live orchestra work Rumba Sinfonica and the album Bach in Havana. ?
"Timba style is a mix between jazz and Cuban music. For example, if you put Buena Vista Social Club with Chick Corea, that's timba style,” he says. “The harmony's going to be deeper in the jazz roots but the rhythm is going to be, of course, Cuban rhythms, like rumba, ch-cha-cha, bolero. We play a mix of everything - timba, jazz, classical.” ?
Gomez says as the band’s exposed to ever more diverse musical influences, the more there is to blend with Cuban rhythms, including a new Placido Domingo Jr. album they’re collaborating on. ?
“We are living our dream playing all the music, all the mix that’s in there, adding a lot of Cuban flavor.” ?
Noted for their rigorous musicianship, yet free-spirited manner, Gomez says, “the way we’re playing now is so different from the beginning. We feel so secure. Now it’s all about how to enjoy yourself and transmit that energy to everybody around you. It’s unbelievable, the sensation. It’s a beautiful life.” ?
Now that Cuba's more open, Gomez expects Tiempo Libre will perform back home. ?
“That’s part of our dream, too,” he says. “We want to play there in our neighborhood, for our friends.” ?
Jazz on the Green features other Latin-style bands this summer, including Incendio on July 14.
For more information, visit jazzonthegreenomaha.com. ? ? ? ? ?