Review: Sierra Maestra, Bury St Edmunds Festival, The Apex, Saturday May 28

Sierra Maestra, Bury St Edmunds Festival, The Apex, Saturday May 28

They made the coolest stage entrance of the festival, led by trumpeter Yellfis Valdes, and within seconds were playing some of the hottest music.

Responding to the introduction that this was to be “music for entertainment – so feel free to dance” there was virtually a stampede for the side aisles, which had been left free so that members of the audience could do just that.

And even those of us too self-conscious to join in, and those warned off in the vertiginous balcony seats, were soon moving and clapping with the infectious Cuban sound generated by a band that has existed for three decades.

This was ‘feelgood’ music for sure, and I found myself spending most of the concert with a smile on my face. The stars of the show for me were Valdes, the youngest group member, his trumpet solos exciting, warm and rich, often hitting stratospheric notes with a sureness of tone and quality that was astonishing - and Emilio Ramos, playing the tres, a traditional small guitar, with cheerful and seemingly effortless virtuosity.

Most of the introductions were in Spanish, but there was no lack of understanding as the audience joined in, enthusiastically attempting to clap the rhythms as directed by the band. The rhythms in this kind of music are pretty complex, and amongst numerous highlights was an astonishing cross-rhythmic solo on the conga and bongos.

A mixture of original band members and new blood, these vibrant and passionate musicians performed many numbers from their 2010 Latin Grammy nominated record Sonando Ya, and by the end of the concert had infused the Apex with true Havana heat.

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Wynn Rees