Various Artists: The Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina

[20 February 2011]

By Ben Child

The Lost Cuban Trios of Casa Marina offers a treasure chest of hardened gems, 26 tracks documenting the range and virtuosity of dressed-up vernacular Cuban music. Expertly preserved by a pair of brothers, Jewish refugees Harry and Morris Schrange, who fled 1930s Poland, settled in Havana, and, in 1958, carted a portable Ampex recorder into a famous Matanzas brothel—the titular Casa Marina—to record the boleros, cha cha chas, and cumbias they heard in the lounge. Not only is this a compelling counterpoint to 1997’s justly-lauded Buena Vista Social Club, it’s an uncommon glimpse into music in action: If you’ve ever wondered about the soundtrack of a pre-Revolutionary Cuban bordello, here’s your ticket. Even the unappealing cover art can’t disguise the fact that this is a rare and precious release.

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