Festival In Havana
3*** By All Music Guide.
1. Tumbando Caña [Conga] 3:24
2. El Barracón [Conga] 3:20
3. Consuelate Como Yo [Rumba Guaguancó] 4:06
4. Donde Estabas Anoche [Rumba Guaguancó] 3:51
5. Ultima Rumba [Rumba Guanuancó] 3:26
6. La Chambelona [Conga Liberal] 2:10
7. Tumba la Caña [Conga Conservatore] 3:22
8. Siento un Bombo [Conga] 3:35
9. Desengaño de los Roncos [Rumba Guanuancó] 4:13
10. Malanga [Rumba Colombia] 3:20
11. Ave Maria Morena [Rumba Yambó] 3:03
12. Mirala Que Linda Viene [Conga] 3:26
"In 2003, Milestone/Fantasy announced that it was reissuing Festival in Havana an obscure recording that was made in 1955 (before Fidel Castro came to power) and had been out of print for at least 40 years. Those who weren't familiar with the original LP might have expected to hear a Cuban dance orchestra playing son, cha-cha, or mambo; perhaps they might have expected to hear something along the lines of la Sonora Matancera or the bands of Beny Moré, Tito Rodriguez, Machito, or Xavier Cugat. All of those artists were quite popular in the '50s, and all of them were masters of the music that eventually came to be called salsa (an umbrella term that didn't come into vogue until Fania Records' heyday in the '70s). But while Festival in Havana is authentically Afro-Cuban, it isn't salsa actually, the performances on this CD favor an approach that would have been considered old-school even in 1955. Boasting the famous Ignacio Piñeiro serving as leader/arranger, Festival in Havana is traditional Afro-Cuban music at its most raw, skeletal, and basic. Oscar "Floresita" Velasco, a well-respected Cuban musician, appears on trumpet, but the group that Piñeiro leads is far from a '50s-style Latin dance orchestra; Velasco is the only horn player, and most of the band consists of percussionists and singers (including Carlos Embale and Bienvenido Leon on lead vocals). The songs come from traditional guaguancó, rumba, and conga repertoire, and even though many of them have been played in a dance-band style (including "La Chambelona" and "Ave Maria Morena"), they aren't played that way on Festival in Havana again, rawness prevails throughout this album. Salsa fans who are used to hearing more elaborate and polished Afro-Cuban dance orchestras might find these performances to be too raw, but for those who are aren't afraid of rawness, Festival in Havana's debut on CD is cause for celebration."
Alex Henderson -All Music Guide