We are delighted to welcome Roberto Fonseca to Fiddlers Bristol.
Roberto Fonseca is Cuban pianist, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and bandleader. Havana-born and based, he has released nine solo albums, collaborated across genres, been nominated for a Grammy Award and toured the world several times over. Along the way he has achieved the aim with which he began his professional career in the early 1990s: “Wherever people are, I want them to hear my music and say, ‘This is Roberto Fonseca’.”
Havana’s own Herbie Hancock. A maker of music so recognisable that anyone who heard it would know it as Roberto Fonseca.
While still comparatively young for one approaching maestro status, Fonseca has been at the forefront of the renaissance in Cuban music for nearly three decades. Having made his live solo debut aged 15 at the 1990 Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana, he graduated with a Masters degree in composition from the capital’s respected Instituto Superior de Arte, determined to become a point of reference.
Fonseca had already released three solo albums when, in the early 2000s, he joined the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, replacing the ailing Ruben Gonzalez (1919 – 2003) then touring with Buena Vista alumni, crooner Ibrahim Ferrer (1927 – 2005) then with singer Omara Portuondo. His solo catalogue expanded: 2007’s landmark Zamazu proved him a performer/composer in his own right. 2012’s Grammy-nominated Yo matching tradition with experimentation on tracks that featured guests including Fatoumata Diawara, the Malian singing star with whom Fonseca subsequently embarked on an acclaimed live collaboration.
In 2016, the year of ABUC’s release, he was the Artistic Director of the inaugural Jazz Plaza Festival in Santiago de Cuba.
In 2019, the year of Yesun, Fonseca received the prestigious Ordre des Arts Letters (Order of Arts and Letters) from the French Ministry of Culture.
Fonseca’s goals remain the same: “I’m always trying to be a better musician, so wherever I am, I’m practicing and composing, composing and practicing,” he says. “I like experimenting, breaking new ground.”
Yesun is a wordplay title symbolising water. Water drawn from the well of AfroCuban history and given with a modern, forward-looking twist. For in the same way that water, the giver of life, has vast reach and shape-shifting power, so does Fonseca’s music flow from ancient to modern, embracing challenges, prompting growth. Opening a channel for young musicians in Cuba, who take inspiration from his cross-genre adventures and wild success abroad.
This is an album that’s unmistakeably Fonseca. There’s the acute sense of form, rhythm and melody. The wealth of ideas. The compositions with something to say. There’s more space, too, in Fonseca’s solos, agile and delicate here, percussive and muscular there, imbued with thought, lyricism and purpose.
“When you’re young you want to say everything, so you play too many notes. Now that I’m more confident in my playing I’ve realised that the best way to communicate with as many people as possible is to give them room to understand you.”