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Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars Launch Absolutely Live II Tour on January 10;

CD+DVD Release Captures One of Cuba's Greatest Live Acts, with 2-Disk Set of Memorable Concerts in Guanajuato, Mexico (CD) and Bethesda, MD (DVD)

Twenty Years after Buena Vista Social Club Sessions, "The Quincy Jones of Cuban Music" Brings His 14-Piece Band to Heat Up Dance Floors on East and West Coast

Wed Jan 10 South Orange, NJ SOPAC
Thurs Jan 11 Port Washington, NY Landmark on Main Street
Fri Jan 12 Philadelphia, PA Kimmel Center
Sat Jan 13 New York, NY Highline Ballroom
Sun Jan 14 Boston, MA Berklee Performance Center
Tue/Wed Jan 16 & 17 Berkeley, CA Freight and Salvage
Fri Jan 19 Northridge, CA Cal State University
Sat Feb 3 Atlanta, GA Rialto Center for the Arts

GRAMMY-winning musician, composer, arranger, and producer Juan de Marcos, architect of the Buena Vista Social Club sessions that helped reintroduce the classic sound of popular Cuban music to the world, celebrates the release of Absolutely Live II , the first release of his own label, DM Ahora!, with a mid-winter tour that includes concerts at the Highline Ballroom in New York and Berklee Performance Center in Boston.

A CD+DVD release featuring performances at the Cervantino International Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico and The Strathmore Center for the Arts in North Bethesda, Maryland , Absolutely Live II showcases his 14-piece Afro-Cuban All Stars at the peak of their powers.

Long considered one of the great contemporary Cuban dance bands , de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars will be heating up winter dance floors across the U.S. with a 2018 tour that takes them from coast to coast for three weeks, beginning on January 10, before heading out to Europe.

De Marcos founded the Afro-Cuban All Stars in 1997 to record Afro-Cuban music with a large ensemble format and period orchestrations and then bring it out into the world. It yielded at the time the seminalA Toda Cuba Le Gusta, part of the initial Buena Vista Social Club trilogy that also included Introducing Rubén González, also arranged by de Marcos.

His efforts received the inaugural WOMEX Award in 1999.

But under the direction of de Marcos - once dubbed "The Quincy Jones of Cuban music" - the All Stars evolved into a multigenerational ensemble that continues to showcase the breadth and power of Afro-Cuban music. The band set a seemingly impossible high standard from the outset, and yet "the current incarnation of Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars may be the best in its legendary, star-studded 20-year history," said Timba.com, a U.S.-based website specializing in Cuban music.

"Our concerts are a tour of Cuban music through all its genres and its history," said de Marcos, and Viva Mexico!, theAudio CD recorded at the prestigious Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico, revisits Afro-Cuban Jazz (the smooth "Yaimara´s Groove") and irresistible versions of classics such as "El Cuarto de Tula," and "Candela," (both of which became international hits on the original Buena Vista Social Club album) but also a salute to modern timba ("La Mujer del Barbaro").

It's a stirring performance, loose-limbed yet tightly focused - and impeccably captured.

"There are no tricks, no Auto-Tune and no overdubs. The album is exactly what happened," says de Marcos. "All you have is the concert, and these were hot concerts. The Mexican audience was great, very responsive. Lots of people couldn't get in and they were outside shouting. My singers were singing for those in front, but also for the people outside. When you can see and hear people enjoying what you're doing, you give the best. This is what you live for."

Meanwhile, the Blu-Ray DVD Live in Maryland, a worthy addition to the band's library of concert videos including Live in Japan, Live in the Hague, and Salon of Dreams, features an extended five song excerpt of the ensemble´s performance at the Strathmore Center for the Arts. It is another superbly-played sampler of Afro-Cuban music, one that includes Afro-Cuban jazz ("Laura en el Paraíso", written by de Marcos for his younger daughter, clarinetist Laura Lydia González) but also elegant samples of son, cha cha chá, pilón and danzón.

It's now hard to think of a young de Marcos as a rocker who, back in Havana, played covers of groups such as King Crimson, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jethro Tull and Yes and was kicked out of the Havana Conservatory for being, by his own admission, "a bit undisciplined."

But he also listened to Cuban classics (after all, his father was a singer and player who had worked with the great Arsenio Rodríguez) and founded the group Sierra Maestra, which looked to recreate the sound of traditional Cuban music and the old, classic septets. "It was a pretty 'punk' thing to do, getting a group of young kids to play son," he once said. "And from then on, we started to play Cuban music."

It was a passion that eventually led to his work on the Buena Vista Social Club sessions and the idea of paying tribute to the creators and the sound of Cuban music in the 1950s.

Naturally, then, for the All Stars' original recordings, he called on several overlooked and forgotten old Cuban music masters, some long retired, who had been part of that Golden Era, such as pianist Rubén González, singers Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Manuel Licea "Puntillita" and Pio Leiva.

All have since passed. But as it turned out, the sessions, the recordings and the subsequent tours added an unexpected and happy coda to their careers, a final chapter filled with adoring audiences and a worldwide appreciation for their work.

Fittingly, the concerts captured on the Absolutely Live II combined CD/DVD release are dedicated to their memory.

VIDEO: "No' vamo' a la rumba" (from Absolutely Live II, DVD recorded at the Strathmore Center) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgrg694dHoo

AUDIO: "Ahora me da pena" (from Absolutely Live II, CD recorded live in Guanajuato, Mexico https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya2LlOYYw0w