Your cart is empty.
Improvising Sabor - Cuban Dance Music in New York

Improvising Sabor

Cuban Dance Music in New York

By Sue Miller
Hardcover : 9781496832153, 334 pages, 37 b&w illustrations; 8 tables; 121 musical notations, February 2021
Paperback : 9781496832160, 334 pages, 37 b&w illustrations; 8 tables; 121 musical notations, February 2021

The first thorough exploration of the innovative, flute-driven Cuban dance music of New York, charanga


Improvising Sabor: Cuban Dance Music in New York begins in 1960s New York and examines in rich detail the playing styles and international influence of important figures in US Latin music. Such innovators as José Fajardo, Johnny Pacheco, George Castro, and Eddy Zervigón dazzled the Palladium ballroom and other Latin music venues in those crucible years. Author Sue Miller focuses on the Cuban flute style in light of its transformations in the US after the 1959 revolution and within the vibrant context of 1960s New York.

While much about Latin jazz and salsa has been written, this book focuses on the relatively unexplored New York charangas that were performing during the chachachá and pachanga craze of the early sixties. Indeed, many accounts cut straight from the 1950s and the mambo to the bugalú’s development in the late 1960s with little mention of the chachachá and pachanga’s popularity in the mid-twentieth century. Improvising Sabor addresses not only this lost and ignored history, but contends with issues of race, class, and identity while evaluating differences in style between players from prerevolution Cuban charangas and those of 1960s New York.

Through comprehensive explorations and transcriptions of numerous musical examples as well as interviews with and commentary from Latin musicians, Improvising Sabor highlights a specific sabor that is rooted in both Cuban dance music forms and the rich performance culture of Latin New York. The distinctive styles generated by these musicians sparked compelling points of departure and influence.


"Improvising Sabor is a great example of how to approach a study of musical transformation and identity in a manner which engages both academics and practitioners. Miller has put aside commonly held opinions about performance aesthetic in New York and, from the perspective of the flute within the charanga tradition she has considered the wider world of Cuban music and transformation in New York."

- Sara McGuinness, Ethnomusicology Forum

"Improvising Sabor is a truly erudite and serious work of music scholarship. The meticulous annotated musical transcriptions, together with the two albums created as companions to the book, constitute an exceptional master class on charanga, flute improvisation and a musical understanding of the concepts of sabor and cubanía, a multi-disciplinary work equally accessible to musicians, historians, and aficionados."

- Raúl Fernández, The World of Music: New Contours in Kurdish Music Research