BY LORAINE ANDERSON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Three-time Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre returns to Traverse City Saturday evening to perform at the Dennos Museum Center.
Considered one of the hottest young Latin bands today, Tiempo Libre’s seven Cuban musicians formed the first all-Cuban timba group in the United States a decade ago. They were classically trained in Havana and now are based in Miami.
Timba is a high-energy mix of Latin jazz and contemporary Cuban dance music that fuses rumba, funk and rap with original Cuban Son, the root of most salsa music today. It includes everything from bolero conga, cha-cha-cha and danzon.
Tiempo Libre earned its three Grammy nominations for albums “Bach in Havana (2009)¸” “Arroz Con Mango (2005)” and “Lo Que Esperabas (2006).
The band’s most recent release is” My Secret Radio.” It recounts the musicians’ teen years in Cuba when they made antennas out of aluminum foil and wire hangers to catch American broadcasts from Miami after the Cuban government forbade its citizens to listen to American radio.
“Bach in Havana” reflects their musical “double lives” studying Bach and other classical music in Cuba’s Russian-style conservatories by day and playing timba, Latin jazz and other music at night.
Bach’s rhythms and timing are perfect for Cuban music, said Jorge Gomez, the band’s piano/musical director.
“It doesn’t work with Chopin or Lizst,” he has said in previous interviews.
The Latin Jazz Network called Bach in Havana “a landmark recording in the sense that Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’ was about 50 years ago.”
Other Tiempo Libre members are lead vocal Xavier Mili; Wilvi Rodriguez Guerra, bass; Luis Beltran Castillo, saxophone/flute; Leandro González, congas; Raúl Rodríguez, trumpet; and Armando (Pututi) Arce, drums.
Tiempo Libre’s appearance in Traverse City and other Michigan cities this year was made possible with a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, applied for and received by the Dennos Museum Center.
The Wharton Center at Michigan State University first brought Tiempo Libre to Interlochen for a public performance and the Dennos for school performances in January 2009.
Dennos executive director Eugene Jenneman said he was so impressed with the group that he wanted to find a way to bring them back to Traverse City and also make them accessible to other smaller similar venues.
Tiempo Libre performed Tuesday morning for area school students at the Dennos. The group also played this week at colleges, universities and performing art centers in Kalamazoo, Canton, Marquette and Sault Ste. Saint Marie and will appear this fall in Charlotte, Saugatuck and Roscommon.
The $30,000 NEA grant to the Dennos was one of 788 nationwide totaling $24.8 million for not-for-profit national, regional, state and local organizations.
Tickets for Saturday’s 8 p.m. appearance are $25 advance, $28 at the door, $22 for museum members. Tickets can be purchased by calling the museum box office at 995-1553 or online at www.dennosmuseum.org