Hilario Duran and Jane Bunnett
Album: Cuban Rhapsody (Alma Records)
Why we care: I had not heard of these musicians — Cuban pianist Hilario Duran and Jane Bunnett, a Canadian wind player — and was pleasantly surprised by their treatment of standards from the Cuban songbook. For the most part, Bunnett plays flute, but she also takes up soprano sax for lilting, lovely versions of pieces by Cuban masters Miguel Matamoros and Ernesto Lecuona.
Why we like it: Duran and Bunnett cover a wide range of Cuban music, from a selection of Manuel Samuell's classical Contradanzas to the nimble flute in Abelardo Valdes' homage to a nut, Almendra (Almonds).
Reminds us of: palm trees, a full moon, the Caribbean breeze
Download these: Lagrimas Negras, Quirino Con Su Tres, Contradanzas, Almendra
Album: Terra Incognita (E1 Entertainment)
Why we care: If you're interested in music that the wind quintet from the Florida Orchestra could play in Cuba, this Imani Winds release is worth a listen. It includes two pieces by Cuban jazzman Paquito D'Rivera, Kites Over Havana and Wind Chimes. The orchestra's quintet has another D'Rivera piece, Aires Tropicales, in its repertoire.
Why we like it: Jazz comes to the classical wind quintet, with works not only by D'Rivera (who plays clarinet here) but also Jason Moran and Wayne Shorter. Moran's Cane is a four-movement suite on Creole culture. Terra Incognita by Shorter is an improvisatory gem.
Reminds us of: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis, Weather Report
Download these: Terra Incognita, Kites Over Havana
Rachel Barton Pine
Album: Capricho Latino (Cedille)
Why we care: Rachel Barton Pine is a thinking person's violinist, with a deep discography that ranges from Scottish fantasies to Handel sonatas. Here she delves into music for unaccompanied violin with Latin flavor. The selections include both the familiar (Albeniz's Asturias) and the relatively obscure, such as Cuban composer Jose White's elegant Etude No. 6.
Why we like it: Alan Ridout may not be Hispanic, but the British composer's Ferdinand the Bull is a whimsical delight, combining Pine's expressive playing with narration by actor Hector Elizondo.
Reminds us of: what a generous performer Pine is: almost 80 minutes of solo violin.
Download these: Asturias, Tango Etude No. 3, Ferdinand the Bull
Alondra de la Parra
Album: Mi Alma Mexicana (Sony Classical)
Why we care: Mexican-American conductor Alondra de la Parra put together this two-CD collection to celebrate the 2010 bicentennial of Mexico's independence. Performances are by an orchestra she founded, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas.
Why we like it: There's a variety of composers represented, with an emphasis on short works, so as to include as much music as possible. A few works are masterpieces (Huapango by Jose Pablo Moncayo), and there are unfamiliar pieces by famous composers (Sandunga by Carlos Chavez instead of his popular Sinfonia India). An interesting newer work is Clepsydra by Mario Lavista.
Reminds us of: a great college class on Mexican music
Download these: Sobre las olas, Sensemaya
Listen to this