Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Jul 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Men at Work

Tiempo Libre1Tiempo Libre’s Cuban sons fought the odds

Back in Cuba, Jorge Gomez had a lot of time on his hands. During the early ’90s when, he recalls, there was “no work, no food and no hope,” the pianist turned to music. All day.

“In Cuba, most of the time you don’t have anything to do,” Gomez says from his current home in Miami. “So, you rehearse from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. looking for some hope. Nothing happens with your music, but you become a great musician. I only focused on rehearsing and finding a way to leave.”

When he did flee Cuba in 1995 at the age of 25, the classically trained, street-influenced performer wanted to establish a band but wasn’t finding much interest. People respected his talents enough, but their pursuit of paying gigs kept them from collaborating. After all, there isn’t an audience in America for the type of salsa-like, Afro-Cuban dance music Gomez longed to assemble. At least that’s what he was told.

“People said, ‘Are you crazy? Timba, here? Nobody knows about timba!’ The only thing I knew for sure was that I could do it better.”

And, of course, he went on to do just that.

Today, after performing alongside such monumental Cuban figures as Celia Cruz and Albita Rodriguez, and having founded one of Miami’s brightest and biggest musical exports, Tiempo Libre, it’s a different story from when he was flooded with naysayers. Already two acclaimed albums deep, Arroz Con Mango and Lo Que Esperabas, and a third album that merges classical pieces by Bach with Cuban party-flavors set to hit shelves in May, Tiempo Libre has been forging new ground for a modern brand of timba unconventionally birthed outside of Cuban soil. Needless to say, as the band’s musical director, Gomez is the one turning down offers these days.

“When I started doing music it was difficult because nobody wanted to work with me,” he says. “I didn’t have too much work to offer, so they said, ‘Oh, you are my friend and the music is incredible, but I need to pay my bills. And right now, it’s totally shifted. Now all my old friends ask me to do music with them but I have to say, ‘I’m sorry, I have new musicians already.’”

Those new musicians, all six of them, round out his twice-Grammy-nominated ensemble that, since 2001, has been translating the Cuban traditions of son, cha-cha-cha, and rumba, with Latin jazz, funk, African percussion, and their newfound American influences and immigrant experience in Miami—a place Gomez viewed as heaven upon first arriving. “[Miami’s] like Cuba except there is everything here,” he says.

Whereas in Cuba, typical timba bands are massive 18-piece ensembles whose furious polyrhythms are layered atop extensive lyrics, Tiempo Libre operates with half the members and cuts down the lyrics, but makes up for it by dishing out varied styles and combined expertise that mound into a sound just as massive—and infectious. Tinges of hip hop and rap get immersed in the band’s tight horn section and thick, torrential beats, and the only time you’ll find yourself sitting down at a show is when you’re too tired from dancing.

In response to an old, restrictive system in Cuba that wouldn’t reward him, and to those in America who didn’t believe in him, Gomez has found in Tiempo Libre the last laugh, because for a band whose Spanish moniker means ‘free time’—it doesn’t have any. These days, Gomez and his cohorts are happily hard at work making sure their international audiences are the ones hard at play.

“It’s a party not a concert,” he says. “Feel yourself in another world. Feel the music the way you feel American music, like rap or pop. If you can dance to Michael Jackson, you can dance to me.”


Tiempo Libre performs as part of the UC Santa Cruz Arts & Lectures series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $35/gold circle, $30/general, $25/students and seniors, $20/UCSC students. For more information,  visit santacruztickets.com or artslectures.ucsc.edu .

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Boards Are Back in Town

More than a century after a famed trio of Hawaiian princes first surfed in Santa Cruz, their redwood olo surfboards are returning to the Museum of Art & History

 

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

Saturday, July 4, is the 239th birthday of the United States, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence (the U.S. astrology chart has Aquarius moon—freedom for its people, by its people). Cancer, a liberating and initiating sign, is the “gate” where Spirit enters matter. Cancer receives and distributes Ray 3 (Divine Intelligence) and Ray 7 (new rules, new rhythms, new free nation under God). Cancer represents an intelligent freethinking humanity that can and must create right economics for the world. This means a policy of sharing, an opportunity for the U.S. when Venus (money, resources, possessions, etc.) retrogrades July and August in Leo (the heart of the matter). The United States has a unique spiritual task for the world: to lead humanity within and toward the light, accomplished by its people who must first awaken to this task, learn discrimination and be directed by the soul to assume the Herculean task of spiritual world leadership. Let us review the first words of our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Let us form that union together. The following is a review of the spiritual tasks for each sign. Read all the signs. They all apply to everyone.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Designing Woman

Female gardener helps build Versailles in fun, if uneven, ‘A Little Chaos’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Lunch is Packed

Picnic basket lunches from Your Place, plus smoked chili peppers, and new owners at Camellia Tea House

 

What would you like the Supreme Court to rule on next?

Raising the minimum wage so that those that are in poverty now can have a higher standard of life. Greanna Smith, Soquel, Nanny

 

Bruzzone Family Vineyards

Bruzzone Family Vineyards is a small operation run by Berna and John Bruzzone. Starting out a few years ago making only Chardonnay, they eventually planted Pinot Noir on their extensive property and now make this varietal as well.

 

Ty’s Eatery

Pop-up hooks up with Santa Cruz Food Lounge for healthy comfort food