Jose Luis Quintana “Changuito”
Telegrafía Sin Hilo
Cacao Musica

Jose Luis Quintana, better known as Changuito, not only represents an important musician in contemporary Cuban music, he stands as a turning point in Cuban music history. Changuito’s percussion prowess revolutionized both technique and artistic approach towards congas, timbales, bongo, and drum kit. Along with Los Van Van bandleader Juan Formell, Changuito developed a drum kit style that bridged Cuban dance styles and American rock that spawned the songo style. This innovation moved Cuban dance music into the twenty-first century, contributing to the development of timba. Since moving into other realms, Changuito has been a significant sideman across countless salsa and Latin Jazz albums and served as a role model for a whole generation of percussionists. His first album as a leader, Telegrafía Sin Hilo places Changuito’s experience throughout Cuban music history into both dance and Latin Jazz settings.

Traditional And Modern Latin Jazz
Several Latin Jazz tracks reflect Changuito’s innovative vision as they bridge traditional and modern sounds. A familiar flute melody opens “Almendra,” balanced with trumpet player Luis Márquez’s gentle interpretation and some inventive percussion breaks. As the song transitions into an upbeat Cha Cha Cha, a coro introduces flautist Luis Beltrán and Márquez, who both offer rhythmic solos. A harmonized coro trades phrases with saxophonist Luis Beltránover over a sparse rhythm section on “Herencia.” Rodner Padilla offers a subdued Fender Rhodes solo before pianist César Orozco explodes with an aggressive timba montuno. Vocalist Vielka Prieto develops a series of strong pregones through a timba breakdown, leading into solos from saxophonist David Fernández and Changuito. A rubato percussion exchange builds into a funky groove on “Negro’s Son,” until a rhythmic melody transitions into an open descarga. Márquez and pianist Joel Uriola provide strong, energetic solos, leading into an improvisation from conguero Roberto Moreno. Trombonist Alexander Zapata creates a bold statement, leading into a powerful percussion exchange between Changuito and his colleagues. Each song signals a different and historically significant Latin Jazz approach that builds upon Changuito’s broad experiences.

Extensive Percussion and Cuban Folklore
Some pieces integrate Changuito’s virtuosity and deep knowledge of Cuban folklore with sparse jazz ideals. Giovanni Hidalgo, a former student of Changuito, opens “Telegrafía Sin Hilo (Eleggua)” with an unaccompanied conga solo, filled with impressive technique. After Hidalgo’s solo, a bata ensemble plays a song for Eleggua, while Changuito improvises on Timbales. Saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia and Hidalgo engage in a free conversation on “Afrocuban Dream (Olokun)” until the bata ensemble provides a foundation for Changuito’s improvisations. Bassist José Soto and Lamoglia frame Changuitos’ solo with percussive hits, as the rhythm section slowly thickens the texture into a steady groove. Padilla introduces “Sueno Flamenco (Ochosi/Obanloke)” with a ferocious run that transitions into a gentle melody over the bata. As Padilla locks into a consistent rhythm, Marquez creates interlocking phrases with Changuito’s timbale. Each song connects Changuito’s legacy with Cuban folklore while creating ample room for improvisation and creativity.

Dance Music From Rumba to Timba
Several songs visit Cuba’s dance music tradition, bridging both traditional and contemporary approaches. Vocalist Nelson Arrieta lends an energetic voice to the involved arrangement on “De Camagüey Y La Habana.” His pregones boost the band into a high gear, matched only by Changuito’s impressive timbale solo. After more strong vocal improvisations, Fernández leads the song to an end with a screeching statement. A bold mambo moves over a cha cha cha rhythm on “Changuito Se Botó,” leading into the song’s catchy coro. Vocalist Rodrigo Mendoza grounds the song with his deep voice, providing several traditional phrases during his pregon. Solos move between the percussion section, invoking fiery statements from bongó, congas, and timbales. A busy montuno opens into a traditional rumba on “Todavía Queda Limón,” soon switching to a more contemporary feel. A huge coro introduces the vocal improvisations from Ronald González, which ride over a funky bass line and active montuno, firmly grounding the song in timba. Changuito again demonstrates a broad understanding of Cuban music, touching upon a variety of dance music styles.

Changuito The Complete Artist
Changuito’s history shines through the broad spectrum of musical styles on Telegrafía Sin Hilo, and his high level of artistry drives an ambitious musical agenda. Changuito’s use of bata drums throughout the albums link his work directly to Cuban folklore, grounding him in tradition. At the same time, the bata rhythms are always surrounded by modern sounds such as synthesizer and electric bass, adding a contemporary edge. Several dance tunes follow traditional salsa guidelines while others jump into aggressive modern approaches. He emphasizes improvisation throughout the album, finding extensive room for percussion statements. His thorough knowledge of Cuban percussion reveals a true connection to his cultural roots, while his impressive technique shows his innovative edge. Changuito shows both sides of his history on Telegrafía Sin Hilo, from the traditional to the modern; within any context, his musical insight never fades – in any context, Changuito stands as complete artist.
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