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PLAYLIST NEW ALBUM RELEASES BACK TO CUBA.

Byline: Fred Shuster Music Writer

RY COODER & MANUEL GALBAN: ``Mambo Sinuendo'' (Nonesuch/Perro Verde)

RYLAND P. COODER might be Cuba's best-known musician - even though he's not Latino and lives in Santa Monica.

Cooder, though, brought Caribbean traditionalists Buena Vista Social Club to the masses via a Grammy-winning album and Wim Wenders' documentary of the ensemble's Carnegie Hall triumph.

The 1997 ``Buena Vista Social Club'' disc, featuring forgotten greats of Cuban music, many of them in their 70s and long retired, unexpectedly became an international best seller. The next year, Cooder returned to Havana to record an equally well-received solo album by vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer. That was the start of a stream of albums by musicians linked with the original Buena Vista sessions.

To those who've tracked Cooder's many musical flights of fancy since the mid-'60s, his affinity for the island nation's complex and seductive son rhythm wasn't a total surprise.

In a dozen classic solo albums, countless cameos, collaborations and multiple film scores, Cooder has assimilated styles as diverse as reggae, Tex-Mex, Hawaiian, Dixieland, country, Depression-era folk, New Orleans r&b, Indian, African and even vaudeville - all drenched in the elegant Delta-blues sensibility that sings from his slide guitar.

Now, Cooder has thrown another curve ball by teaming with veteran Cuban guitarist-arranger Manuel Galban, 72, for ``Mambo Sinuendo,'' a set of mambo-pop instrumentals heavy on glassy reverb and paranoid atmosphere. To avoid familiar musical structures, Cooder utilized two drummers, longtime associate Jim Keltner and Ry's son Joachim, along with bassist Orlando ``Cachaito'' Lopez and conga player Anga Diaz.

Cooder spoke last week about the project.

Q: Galban has a minimalist, eerie sound. Was the chemistry between the two of you quickly evident?

We knew right away. He's an awesome guitarist, and his tone, approach and concept are unique. He was musical director of a very popular Cuban doo-wop group called Los Zafiros in the '60s, and they were extremely musically advanced due to Manuel's arrangements and instrumental work. The challenge for me was to discover a way to get away from the traditional Cuban percussion lineup, which, whether you love it or not, is always gonna be the same. That's what prompted us to use twin drum sets, which led to some interesting improvisations.

Q: You saw the value of those original Buena Vista sessions, but did it surprise you when the rest of the world caught on?

Nothing could've been more unexpected than a bunch of old Cuban cats suddenly on the radio and in Billboard and winning a Grammy. It was unbelievable for everybody involved. It gave these people longevity and new careers and income. As the Wenders film shows, some of these people had never traveled to New York before the Carnegie Hall show. It's been incredible.

CHECK THESE OUT (other new releases):

BENNY GREEN AND RUSSELL MALONE, ``Jazz at the Bistro'': The piano and guitar duo make beautiful music on a nicely nuanced set of standards, blues and ballads.

ELVIN BISHOP GROUP, ``Feel It!'': The ex-Butterfield Blues Band soloist is at his good-natured best on this live item from 1972 co-starring soul singer Jo Baker.

TAL FARLOW, ``Autumn Leaves'': Like the equally stylish jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, the late Farlow quit the spotlight early. These now-classic sessions took place when the virtuoso was lured back to the studio in the late '70s and early '80s.

Next Tuesday: JANIS JOPLIN: ``The Essential Janis Joplin''

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1) GALBAN, left, AND COODER

(2 -- 4) no caption (CD covers)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 28, 2003
Words:583
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