The “Sinatra of flamenco” takes a tropical turn backed by a draw-dropping group of musicians, Judy Cantor-Navas reports for Billboard.
Back in 2002, upon hearing the rough tracks of Lagrimas Negras, the slow-burning album recorded by the unlikely but genius duo of Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes and flamenco singer Diego El Cigala, I dubbed El Cigala “the Sinatra of Spanish song.”
Now, with his new album, Indestructible, Cigala makes a bid to become flamenco’s Héctor Lavoe, or maybe its Marc Anthony. Since his Grammy-winning collaboration with the great Valdés (who died in 2013), Cigala has gone on to bring his flamenco inflections to tango as well as flamenco, and has become one Spain’s most recognized contemporary artists internationally.
Indestructible is a salsa album, recorded in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as in tropical music capitals New York and Miami and Spain’s Jerez de la Frontera, known as the cradle of flamenco.
While Cigala’s gravelly voice, rooted in deep flamenco, at times strains to hit the high notes, and he lacks the sheer vocal power of the best soneros. But this is more than a novelty album. As he’s done in the past, Cigala finds the common ground that connects these different musical traditions – most splendidly in the opening track, “Moreno Soy.” And, as always, Cigala brings passion to every song. For fans of Lagrimas Negras, the record includes yet another off road, beautifully phrased version of a Cuban classic: “Come Fue,” recorded with another Cuban jazz piano great: jazz piano master Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Olé!
This could be the salsa album of the year, and for that, credit is due to the draw-dropping cast of musicians backing Cigala. They include salsa star Oscar D’Leon, astounding Cuban drummer “Horacio el Negro Hernandez,” Larry Harlow of Fania Fame, El Gran Combo original Roberto Roena, and rumba royalty Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.
Indestructible comes out Friday (Oct. 28). Today, the entire album can be streamed via the website of Spain’s El Pais newspaper.