Adonis Puentes was destined to be a music star. Sabor a Café, nominated as World Music Album Of The Year at 2014 Canadian Juno Awards, his latest CD and first collection of all self-composed original songs, fulfills the Cuban-Canadian singer’s destiny.
Adonis and his fraternal twin Alexis, now better known as Alex Cuba, were born in 1974 in Artemisa, Cuba. Their father, Valentin Puentes is a well-respected musician and teacher, and at six the twins were playing in a children’s guitar ensemble. At 14, Adonis was singing and writing original songs, music that has ripened and matured into the poetic, sensuous song-cycle, Sabor a Café (Tumba King Records/Pacific Music).
Adonis Puentes has been nominated for a Juno Award and garnered a Grammy Award nomination for his lead vocalist work with the nine-piece, L.A.-based Mongorama, directed by well-known radio host Jose Rizo. He has toured with Irakere veteran Maraca Orland Valle and sang at L.A.’s Greek Theater, Hollywood & Highland, and Lincoln Center, where he shared the stage with Latin music luminaries Larry Harlow and Ruben Blades before 24,000 New York fans. He has performed at festivals around the world from South by Southwest in Austin, Texas to Java Jazz in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“I have traveled the world singing. My mission in life is to share my music, giving people joy,” Adonis explains. “My new recording captures my poetic journey, my revelations and my maturing as an artist.”
The Puentes Brothers’ award-winning 2001 CD, Morumba Cubana and Adonis’ 2005 solo debut, Vida were critically acclaimed, the latter earning Artist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year in the Island Music Awards. Sabor a Café builds upon these triumphs with a wide-ranging collection of astonishingly wise and witty songs.
From the playful, sexy lyrics and horn-driven rhythms of the opening title track to the set-capping, elegant soulfulness of Ura, the dozen originals on Sabor a Café offer a rich and varied narrative in praise of the power of love. Adonis Puentes has produced a warm, revelatory self-portrait. Even if you can’t speak a word of Spanish, you can hear his joy, his love of life, his passion!
There is a hypnotic, magical flow to the recording’s song sequence, a dream-like musical journey with echoes of myriad traditional Cuban forms conjured up by the studio musicians’ brilliance and Adonis Puentes’ visionary songwriting and evocative vocals.
Puentes has lived in Victoria, B.C. Canada since 1998, but his latest release is steeped in Cuban music history and culture. One song, Anjojos del Firmamento features Septeto Nacional de Cuba Ignacio Piñero, a Havana-based band founded 80 years ago.
“I grew up listening to their music,” Adonis enthused. “I shared my song with them when they were in Victoria. They liked it, and we recorded it in Cuba. Another Salsa great, Oscar Hernandez arranged three songs and played piano on Sabor a Café. Guys used to play Oscar Hernandez’s piano solos when we were in music school in Cuba. Now he’s playing piano on my new recording!”
The songs on Sabor a Café ripple with percussive cross rhythms and lightening-like horn lines that drive the music forward. A crisp studio sound captures a series of brilliant Salsa and Latin Jazz arrangements so skin-tight and dance-inducing that listeners might overlook the musician’s profoundly positive lyrics. It’s a masterful collection of original love songs from a Chekhov-inspired tribute to love’s power to overcome despair to the joyous hedonism of Tumbando Mangos and Sabor a Café- the first, comparing seeking love to knocking mangos from trees, the second describing the taste of coffee on his lover’s morning kiss.
The song-cycle includes a range of studio performances celebrating many phases and shapes of love from the magic of a long-awaited one night stand to Tarot prophesy of love’s eventual return, from the healing power of flowers and forgiveness to an appreciation of a love that grows and endures over the years. The songs on Sabor a Café delve into every corner of the heart while singing the praises of love and life lived fully.
It’s a sensuous, profound recording with dramatic arrangements and a crystal clear studio sound. Adonis Puentes is a great singer and an elegant composer and lyricist grounded and nourished by his Cuban roots and worldly experience. Sabor a Café is a modern, Cuban music masterpiece.