Make us your home page

Tiempo Libre brings Cuban flair to Florida Orchestra concert this weekend

Tiempo Libre, a seven-member band of musicians who went to school together in Havana and now live in Miami, performs this weekend.

Photo by Elvis Suarez

Tiempo Libre, a seven-member band of musicians who went to school together in Havana and now live in Miami, performs this weekend.

The Florida Orchestra's romance with Cuban music continues this weekend when Tiempo Libre is featured in a pair of pops concerts.

"You're going to hear the cha-cha-cha, danzon, boleros, conga, Guantanamera, a lot of Cuban music," said Jorge Gomez, musical director and keyboard player of the group, a seven-member band of musicians who went to school together in Havana and now live in Miami.

Though not exactly a part of the orchestra's multiyear exchange program with Cuban musical institutions — the members of Tiempo Libre are exiles from the island, after all — this weekend's concerts represent a fascinating fusion of Afro-Cuban jazz and symphonic pops. The conductor is Sarah Hicks, whose experience with the band goes back to its 2007 premiere of a piece by Venezuelan composer Ricardo Lorenz called Rumba Sinfonica with the Minnesota Orchestra.

Gomez, 41, hopes that audience members wear their dancing shoes. "Cuban music, it doesn't matter if you are playing with a symphony orchestra, it gets in your body and you're going to want to get up and dance," he said.

This weekend's program includes such inventive music as selections from Tiempo Libre's Grammy-nominated CD Bach in Havana, featuring Gomez's arrangements of the classics Air on a G-String and Minuet in G.

Gomez and his band mates all were classically trained at the National School of the Arts in Havana, and it is kind of amazing that they managed to get together after leaving Cuba. "The trumpet player used to live in Spain, the sax player in Italy, the conga player in Argentina, and I was living in Guatemala," he said from his home on Miami Beach Tuesday. "But Miami is the second Cuba, and everybody came here for the same reason, looking for Cuban people, to eat Cuban food."

Since 2001, the band has been together in Miami, and it has put out five albums, three nominated for Grammys, and performed with many high-profile musicians ranging from Celia Cruz, the late, great Cuban diva, to superstar violinist Joshua Bell. Gomez figures they have played about 50 concerts with symphony orchestras.

Gomez describes the musical style of Tiempo Libre — which means "free time" — as timba. "Basically it's a mix between jazz and Cuban music," he said. "We love to combine jazz with mambo, conga and cha-cha-cha. It's jazzy, energetic dance music."

Tiempo Libre and the Florida Orchestra perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $15-$45, with $10 tickets for students, educators, military. (727) 892-3337 or 1-800-662-7286;

Recital with Mendelssohn trio

Pianist Xu Hui plays works of Schubert, Liszt and Wang Jianzhong in her recital at 7:30 Friday night at the St. Petersburg College Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Xu Hui (pronounced Shue Whey), who is on the SPC music faculty, will be joined in a Mendelssohn piano trio by violinist Ginny Respess and cellist Lowell Adams, both members of the Florida Orchestra. The Chinese pianist sometimes plays with the orchestra. $10. (727) 341-7984;

Byrd in the afternoon

Florida Pro Musica and music director Larry Kent wind up their 15th season with a concert that features William Byrd's Mass for four voices at 4 p.m. Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa. The a cappella program also includes motets and madrigals by Palestrina, Lobo, Isaac, Walter, Bennet, Liszt and Bruckner. $20. (813) 494-4709;

John Fleming can be reached at or (727) 893-8716.

Tiempo Libre brings Cuban flair to Florida Orchestra concert this weekend 04/02/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 6:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador


    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25


    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24


    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]