The Afro-Cuban All Stars is a dream 13-piece band comprising four generations of Cuba’s finest musicians. A Toda Cuba Le Gusta (Everyone in Cuba Loves It), recorded by World Circuit in Havana, is the band’s debut album, and it features six of the island’s most brilliant singers. In a celebration of the diversity of Cuban music the album’s ten songs run through a great range of styles including danzón, son-montuno, guaguancó, Mozambique, Afro, mambo, and guajira.
The All Stars were brought together by musical director Juan de Marcos González (leader of the son group Sierra Maestra), as a backing band for his heroes, the legendary soneros (singers) from the 1950s "golden age" of Cuban music. González wanted to capture the flavor of the great Cuban big bands of the era but not simply as an exercise in recreation. With his contemporary arrangements and his choice of musicians and repertoire combined with the all-acoustic ensemble’s extraordinary power and exuberance, he succeeds in paying homage while demonstrating the vitality of the music.
The list of lead vocalists is a virtual "who’s who" of the greatest Cuban soneros; the octogenarian Pío Leyva (Estrellas de Areito) and septuagenarians Raúl Planas (Rumbavana, Celia Cruz), Manuel "Puntillita" Licea (Sonora Matancera), and Ibrahím Ferrer (Pacho Alonso) are joined by rising stars from a younger generation, Antonio "Maceo" Rodríguez (Sierra Maestra) and Félix Valoy (Alberto Alvarez).
To back these individual talents through a diverse selection of songs, González brought together a very special group of musicians. On piano is one of the founding fathers of modern Cuban music, the legendary Rubén González (Arsenio Rodríguez, Enrique Jorrín, Estrellas de Areito). On double bass is Cuba’s finest, Orlando "Cachaíto" López, who learned his trade as part of the extraordinary bass playing López dynasty which includes his father Orestes López and uncle Israel "Cachao" López.
The six piece horn section (three trumpets, two trombones, sax, flute) is made up from the best players of Havana’s celebrated Tropicana Orchestra. Soloists include the great Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal on trumpet (Orchestra Riverside, Estrellas de Areito) and Afrokan (Irakere) on trombone. The album also features guest solos from Ry Cooder on guitar ("Alto Songo"), Orchestra Aragon’s legendary flute player, Richard Egües ("Havana del Este"), and Barbarito Torres on laoud ("Amor Verdadero").
In a country renowned for its percussionists, the All Stars’ six piece section is matchless and includes the 19-year-old phenomenon Julienne Oviedo on timbales and the great Miguel "Angá" on congas.
The atmosphere at Havana’s Egrem Studios was electric. The younger musicians were playing with their heroes, the older players were inspired by the energy surrounding them and the singers, renewing old rivalries, strove to outdo one another. Visiting musicians arrived daily to crowd into the control booth to watch the proceedings and with the spark lit, the entire recording was completed in just one week.
C. Hammer in stereoplay 6 / 97: "Die Audiophile.
Kaum weiß man, wovon man mehr schwelgen soll:
von der Verve der Bläsersätze, vom Feuer und der
Eleganz der Rhythmen, der Dynamik, die dem Dialog
der verschiedenen Orchesterteile entspringt - oder
der klanglichen Brillanz der von Tonmeister Jerry
Boys aufgezeichneten Session, die so gläsern wie
lebendig aus den Boxen perlt."