This is a highly listenable recording from Naxos spotlighting the importance of Cuban solo guitar music. The talented guitarist is Marco Tamayo, and the selections reflect a compendium of the finest among Cuban composers: Ñico Rojas, the self taught guitarist, composer and leading figure in the filin (feeling) movement; Harold Gramatges, the prolific and much respected classical composer; Moisés Simons, the composer of the popular "El Manicero" ("The Peanut-Seller"), credited here to Edward Simons; and Leo Brouwer, an otherwise avant-garde experimentalist. Although many of the arrangements are within the soft-jazz, Earl Klugh-like space, the pieces do not belie their Cuban heritage and range from the traditional dance genres such as zapateo, guiajira and son pregón, through Rojas' jazz-influenced harmonies to Gramatges' neo-classical miniatures.
The tone can be at once seductive and then later inspirational, yet what remains consistent is Tamayo's delicate and assured playing, which beautifully conveys the gentle relaxed quality of these works, Some pieces stand alone, such as "El Manicero" (which some may recognize as a variation of the tropical song Judy Garland sang in the "Born in a Trunk" number in "A Star Is Born") or the "Preludio" (the theme from the film "Soy Cuba") and "Canción Triste" by Carlos Fariñas. The remainder function as part of short suites, for instance, the lovely canción-danza pairing by Aldo Rodriguez, which gives a nice structure to otherwise disparate musical styles. The last eight tracks represent an adaptation of Yoruba religious music by Hector Angulo. Quite beautiful and atmospheric on their own, these short pieces convey some intriguing rhythmic drive and complexity that seem odd for a guitar by itself to express. But the Cuban-born Tamayo (now teaching master classes in Salzburg at the Mozarteum) shows impressive dexterity in capturing such emotions on the guitar. As a whole, the album reveals a repertoire well worth discovering and another dimension of Cuban music beyond salsa and the Buena Vista Social Club. This is another of Naxos' discounted recordings ($6.98), an excellent purchase.