​Tiempo Libre likes erasing borders

Cuban group to play with DPO.

The fiery rhythms and spicy flair of Tiempo Libre will ignite the Schuster Center on Friday and Saturday as the three-time Grammy-nominated troupe takes center stage.

The show is part of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s SuperPops Series.

A Miami-based ensemble, the seven-members of Tiempo Libre regard themselves as ambassadors carrying forth the flavorful musical heritage of their native Cuba. The name Tiempo Libre translates from Spanish as “free time” or “leisure time.”

Specializing in timba, a Cuban musical form infusing Latin jazz with the traditional style of Cuban music called “son,” they create an energetic sound accented by unique instrumentation from electric keyboard to electric bass that captures the feel-good essence of a hot dance party. Tiempo Libre TV appearances include “Dancing With the Stars,” “Live From Lincoln Center” and “The Tonight Show.”

“We feel good every time we play our instruments and see the audience dancing and having a great time,” said musical director/pianist Jorge Gómez, who was greatly influenced in his youth by the music of Kool & The Gang, Chaka Khan and Earth, Wind and Fire that he heard from Miami airwaves. He heard these artists secretly, due to Cuban government restrictions. “But this is more than just a career. We grew up playing music. It has always been a part of our lives. We enjoy traveling to show people the new generation of Cuban music.”

The members of Tiempo Libre particularly have a classical background having trained at Cuba’s prominent conservatories. In fact, their 2009 Grammy-nominated CD “Bach in Havana” was heralded for its exploration of Cuban music and classical influences. Over the years, the group has performed with the San Francisco and Houston Symphonies as well as the Cleveland Orchestra.

Gómez says the opportunity to perform alongside the DPO allows the group to once again reflect on their classical foundation while embracing a few inherent artistic challenges.

“It’s always great to have a chance to mix two musical cultures,” Gómez said. “Performing with an orchestra also allows to really think about our level of professional performance in terms of volume, specifically how we listen to the orchestra and how the orchestra listens to us. We want there to be a very nice balance for the audience to hear. Cuban music played alongside an orchestra can be complicated but truly enjoyable.”

In addition to selections from “Bach in Havana,” Tiempo Libre plans to provide a medley of traditional Cuban cha-cha-chas, boleros, mambos and sones. Notable numbers include the classical-flavored “Minuet in G,” “Tu Conga Bach” and Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” as well as spicier numbers as “Andalucia,” “Baqueteo” and “Fuga.”

The DPO will be conducted by Patrick Reynolds.

Gómez said, “Each time we are about to walk on stage, I get a tingling sensation, that thrill that starts at the base of the spine and fills me with euphoria. It’s that same thrill I felt up on that roof under the twinkling Havana stars, listening to my secret radio.”

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Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.

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