Review: Roberto Fonseca; Apex; Bury St Edmunds Festival – Saturday May 26 2012

Roberto Fonseca is, quite simply, a phenomenon. His group members are pretty amazing as well. I have never encountered so many speechless musicians as I did when I spoke to aquaintances in the audience during the interval and after the performance on Saturday night.

A child prodigy, a product of Cuba, and linked with the Buena Vista Social Club (which did so much to bring so many superb Cuban musicians to the attention of the world), Roberto Fonseca - and his five fellow musicians in turn - demonstrated a level of virtuosity which left us all breathless with admiration and brought the whole audience to its feet.

The title of Fonseca’s new album, from which Saturday’s pieces were taken, is “Yo” – Spanish for “I” or “me” which, together with the naked torso photograph on the cover, may appear somewhat egotistical. But for a man who has a great deal to be egotistical about, both on stage and in conversation afterwards he came across as modest and relaxed.

The music is rooted in Cuba, but with a seriously modern twist, the pace breathtaking, the rhythms exhilarating, yet sometimes a gentle lyricism. Futuristic electronic sounds sit alongside traditional percussion, and pre-recorded tapes add yet another dimension. At the piano Fonseca is a whirlwind of creativity and technique, his remarkable interplay with Baba Sissoko on African percussion ever-inventive.

This was an amazing concert – testament to the excellent and imaginative programming of Nick Wells, Festival Director - and a rare opportunity to hear a unique talent which left me, like the rest of the audience, with a huge smile on my face.

Wynn Rees