World Circuit

To hear 81-year-old Cuban jazz pianist Rubén González play is to marvel: Here is someone at the peak of his powers, who plays like a Cheshire cat possessed with the intertwined spirits of Thelonious Monk and Juan Tizol. This is only González’s second album; his debut Introducing … was released over four years ago, when he was 76, as part of a trio of fine recordings (Buena Vista Social Club, Afro-Cuban All Stars) that Ry Cooder and World Circuit’s Nick Gold cut in Cuba with native musicians. Like those discs, here González is backed by a swinging coterie of Havana players; guest vocalists Ibrahim Ferrer and Senegalese singer Cheikh Lô also appear, as do Cooder and guitarist Eliades Ochoa. Together, they make magical, sepia-tinged and conga-driven music that snakes around corners like smoke from a fine Cuban cigar. It’ll transport you to a wonderful place, if you’re so inclined. I sure am.