Trombonist, sonero, percussionist, composer, and arranger César Bauvallet spent his childhood immersed in the sones, danzones, boleros, and cha-cha-chas of Cuba’s Golden Era of Music—a veritable explosion of traditional music whose romance and rhythms found their way into jazz and popular music around the world. Bauvallet’s father, Daniel, was at the heart of that era. His performances as a singer and drummer in Havana nightclubs helped to define the essence of the music for his own and later generations, and he schooled his gifted children in Cuban musical traditions. Bauvallet refined his musical gifts at Havana’s famed Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, from which he graduated summa cum laude, and went on to have a very successful career in Cuba, traveling around the world and playing his roots.
Twenty-five years ago, on tour with his band in Mexico, Bauvallet and his brother defected, walking across the bridge to El Paso. Bauvallet settled in Albuquerque, where he introduced a new group, Son Como Son, playing a Cuban style of salsa entirely new to the city. The members of this nine-piece band, drawn from the local population, were remorselessly schooled by Bauvallet in the traditions that were second nature to him, whom they call “The Source,” a man as strict as he is generous. Twenty-three years later, Son Como Son still packs every venue with its high-energy shows, and Bauvallet has branched out into other projects, such as Tradiciones, a smaller band that he created to celebrate and preserve the sumptuously rhythmic and romantic dance music of Cuba.
For the New Mexico Jazz Festival, Bauvallet has put together a band that draws on the diverse musical experiences of its members—pianist Jim Ahrend, tenor saxophonist Kanoa Kaluhiwa, bassist Janet Harman (Bauvallet’s wife), bongosero Victor Rodríguez, drummer Danilo Bauvallet (the son of Bauvallet and Harman), and special guest and Bauvallet’s longtime friend conguero Raciel Tortoló from Team Havana. They’ll be appearing at the Outpost on Sunday evening, July 23.
I recently spoke with Bauvallet about the project, and the following excerpts from our conversation touch on the genesis of the project, the band members, his apprenticeship in Cuba as an arranger, and his objective for the evening. Continue reading