Cachao rarely solos on Ahora -- his strength is as a bandleader and arranger. "Mambo Cambió de Swing" is pretty much what you'd expect -- a retelling of mambo music through a big band lens, but más caliente than it sounds. "Aurora" is 83 seconds of lovely crooning by Alzaro Galarraga and then another few minutes of jazzy guitar work from Nelson Gonzalez.
But the real gems here are the curveballs: the 18-minute "Guajira Clásica" starts with sexy orchestral violin/saxophone interplay and progresses to a blowing session; "No Tienes Por Que Llorar" is Cuban highlife juju jazz; and collaborator Andy García gets to flex his song-writing chops on "Una Descarga a Cachao," which is what funk would sound like in heaven. This much brilliance? It's not fair. -- Matt Cibula