Pianist and music director Jorge Gomez, of Tiempo Libre was in Los Angeles with his band mates this morning, getting ready to record an episode of Dancing with the Stars. The twice-Grammy nominated Timba band is busy lately, with a new album (Bach in Havana, released in May, 2009), and a steady stream of bookings with orchestras to perform Ricardo Lorenz’s Rhumba Sinfonica—which they’ll do next week here with the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, directed by Carl Topilow.

Tiempo Libre
  • Tiempo Libre

CIM will probably feel like a familiar place to the band, whose members were students at the Cuban national conservatory in Havana when they met in the eighties. Back then, Jorge says, the school was a lot more restrictive than it is now. “The bad situation was that in the school if they caught you playing pop music in the school, you were out.”

So the students kept the island’s infectious rhythms quiet while in school, but turned them loose later. “It was Bach and Tchaikovsky during the day, and by night you play in the streets—rhumba, guaguanco, timba.”

That’s how it’s going to go at CIM, too, when Tiempo Libre gives a benefit performance for the Cleveland Institute of Music. The band will join the CIM Orchestra for Rumba Sinfonica and works by Jose Pablo Moncayo, George Gershwin, and Joaquin Turina, followed by a set of butt-shaking timba. It’s at 8:30 Saturday at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave.,, 216.231.1111) Tickets: Concert only, $25 to $35.

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