Lula Lounge is a location, a venue, “home to Toronto’s exploding music scene” says the publicity, emphasising the community of the place. So, I’m sorry that this album doesn’t try to give you any idea of the musicians performing in that physical, bounded space, with an audience, spatial acoustics, whatever—even the live bonus track is corner-tucked and self-enclosed: a box of music. These Cuban dance bands might as well be playing on the moon. But the blurb’s argument about the quality of the city’s migrant Cuban musicians is proven.
Lula convinces you the songs twitch their arses like beautiful metronomes, the trumpets on “Cuando Me Toca A Mi” slither over fur and one of them spits away on its own. Hilario Durán’s piano bounces its chords up a pleasurable staircase, and after a lot of tracks that are good but genre-obedient, we get Jane Bunnett on her saxophone, expanding the album’s horizons. Telemary Diaz then expands it again with rap on “Que Equivocao”.
As I listened to Diaz, it struck me that that the picture on the front of this mainly-male-musicianed album is a shot of a woman decorative, wide-eyed and waving her arms, while, on the disc itself, the women tend to be combative and the ones doing most of the crowd-coaxing, waving and grinning, are men. The power of conventional imagery.