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 [email protected] 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. Seasoned cast scores an extra-base hit for St. Petersburg Opera with 'Faust'


    TAMPA — Charles Gounod's Faust sets the table early. The world-weary philosopher immortalized in a dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in his study, lamenting his state of affairs. He's willing to give away everything he has to be young again, even his soul.

    The St. Petersburg Opera Company begins its season with Faust, in a production seemingly aligned with the original intent of French composer Charles Gounod and librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. [St. Petersburg Opera Company]
  2. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway


    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  3. A scene from "Epiphany."
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 22


    Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers, with their blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, lead the lineup. 1:30 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $16 per day, $45 reserved, $170 VIP. (727) 461-5200.

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15:  (L-R)  Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett, and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers pose for a portrait at the "May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers" Premiere - 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 21


    Conor Oberst: The Bright Eyes mastermind will be joined by opener, the Felice Brothers. 8 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $30.50-$36. (727) 791-7400.

    Handout photo of Conor Oberst, performing Oct. 21 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Credit: Grandstand Media