Layla Angulo: Live at the Triple Door (self-released)
Thirty seconds into this album, Layla Angulo sings, and I have a flashback. It's 1991, my CD player is spinning up the new David Byrne compilation Cuba Classics 2: Dancing with the Enemy, and the husky voice of Celeste Mendoza digs into "Mi Rumba Echando Candela." Seattle-based, Louisiana-born Angulo -- a product of Greek and Irish parents -- has a voice rich with feeling and experience, defying her origins and youth, and echoing the voice of Mendoza, even Celia Cruz. Oh, and she's also a sharp sax player (check out "Tus Manos," for example), composer, and band leader. This energetic live recording is crisp and clear, with just a touch of audience noise, letting Angulo and her Latin Jazz Orchestra shine. It's just hard to believe that Angulo isn't signed to a label, and that this is Seattle, not Miami, or Havana....
Layla's website | Hear samples/Buy CD
Mea culpa (that's latin for "my bad"): Layla herself wrote to tell me that it's not actually her velvety voice gracing that track. Indeed, she had several guest vocalists on this album. Not that she's singing-averse - upcoming songs will feature her own vocals. But in the name of accuracy, I must point out the error of my ways.
By way of making it up to you, here's a related literary recommendation. If you like danceable fiction, check out Mambo Peligroso by Patricia Chao. Yes, it's about mambo (the dance even more than the music) but weaves in some great characters, some sex, some blood, a little Cuban revolutionary fervor, and even a sly dig at the current US administration (it's not a very political book; I just happened to chuckle at reading that Miami Cubans were the ones that "got George W. Bush illegally elected...").