Words by Philip Sweeney
The first Buena Vista-brand release in a long while, accompanying the live band’s alleged final tour, this is a selection of tracks culled from almost two decades of recording that followed the first epoch-making sessions back in 1996. Several of the items date from those first sessions in the vintage EGREM Studio 101 in Havana, among them a nice version of Compay Segundo’s ‘Macusa’ by the old boy himself, with Eliades Ochoa on guitar. Readers may recall the splendid big band put together by Ibrahim Ferrer at the peak of his post-BVSC success, and solo projects by later members such as current bandleader Aguaje Ramo. He’s represented here by a run through of the classic danzon ‘Bodas de Oro’, which features Rubén González’s last recorded piano solo.
There’s enough musical variety to avoid too much duplication of existing material; high points include a lovely melancholy tonada-like song by Eliades Ochoa, and possibly the best recording Omara Portuondo has ever made, a simple but hugely effective version of ‘Tiene Sabor’, notable for its female chorus and exciting violin solo. For these tracks, and its historic interest, this is worth acquiring.