ZZ Top Guitarist Billy Gibbons to Release Cuban-Flavored Solo Album 'Perfectamundo' in October

ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons will release his first solo album on Concord Records in October. As an annoucement about the album on ZZ Top's website suggests, the fact that it's a bilingual record with "Afro-Cuban flavor" is surprising.

Perhaps more surprising has been Gibbons' enviable revelation that as a teen he took Latin percussion classes from Tito Puente, who was a friend of his bandleader father, Freddie Royal.

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"Banging away on 'em came back like riding on a lost bicycle," Gibbons says of his re-encounter with the timbales, bongo and congas for the new album.

Gibbons was invited to Havana in 2014 to perform at the Havana Jazz Festival. He didn't end up going but he says Cuban music inspired the album, which was  recorded in his Houston studio, and in Los Angeles, Austin and Pontevedra, Spain, by with a group of musicians with diverse backgrounds dubbed the BFGs.

It's a motley but intriguing crew that includes, drummer Greg Morrow, New York-based Cuban singer and bandleader Chino Pons, Argentine-born, Puerto-Rican raised keyboardist Martin Guigi and vocalist/bassist Alex Garza.

"Altogether, the group displays a rare understanding of Cuban music of the pre-revolution 1950s, and is also learned in the rock and metal exemplified by the likes of ZZ Top," the release announcement states.

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The album's fantasy Spanish title, Perfectamundo, is taken from a word popularized by Fonzie on the classic Happy Days TV show. But the album includes tracks sung in actual Spanish, and songs that are a mix of Cuban and other Latin styles with music Gibbons' fans would more likely expect.

They include "a Spanglish version of Louisiana swamp blues maestro Slim Harpo's classic 'Got Love If You Want It' and an Afro-Cubanized take on the Lightnin' Hopkins blues staple 'Baby Please Don't Go,' thereby fully merging Gibbons innate Houston blues tradition with Cuban rhythms."