Musical Original de Cuba

Flynn, Frank Emilio

album cover

The Piano Map of Cuban Music

In 1959, the blind pianist Frank Emilio Flynn (1921–2001) recorded a collection of danzóns, the Afro-Cuban adaptation of classical dance styles (minuet, waltz, mazurka) brought to Cuba by the French in the early nineteenth century. The Cuban government funded the sessions, and the album, Danzas y danzóns de Cuba, on the esteemed Sonotone label, became a part of the permanent collection of the Cuban History Museum. Although it was forgotten in the political upheaval happening at the time of its creation, it returned to circulation with additional material in 2006, as Musica original de Cuba.

Danzas was just another session for Flynn, the classically trained pianist whose career path winds through most of the consequential music of modern Cuba. But it's a key puzzle-piece, clarifying the connection between the lovely melodies of the danzón and the more exploratory dance styles—son, rumba, etc.—that evolved from it. As an integral part of Ignacio Piñeiro's Septeto Nacional and the band of sonero Miguel Matamoros, Flynn learned to satisfy demanding Cuban dancers, and when he struck out on his own in the late 1950s, he maintained the same attention to steady, delicately swinging rhythm. His bands were, however, bent on exploration; their understated yet remarkably vital rhythm helped establish the tone and aesthetic perimeters of Cuban jazz.

This set captures Flynn's sprightly pianistic style, which assimilates ragtime chords and Cuban folklore and French dances into something timeless and uniquely Cuban. It's piano-bar music for a detective caper set in Old Havana—wistful and vaguely sad, defined by tenderness but informed by an awareness of the world's evils.

Genre: World, Cuba
Released: 1959, Sonotone (Reissued 2005)
Key Tracks: "Tres lindas Cubanas," "Virgen de Regla," "La belleza," "El canon."
Catalog Choice: Tribute to Ernesto Lecuona
Next Stop: Noro Morales: His Piano and Rhythm
After That: George Shearing: Latin Lace/Latin Affair
Book Pages: 285–286

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