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Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall

11 Oct

If anyone is looking to send an early Christmas present our way, head on over and order the 2-disc concert recording Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall that Nonesuch Records is releasing this Tuesday. Wim Wenders included footage from this concert in his documentary, but this is the first time that the full live recording has been made available. This is bittersweet, now that some of the greatest elements of the Buena Vista Social Club- singer Ibrahim Ferrer, pianist Ruben Gonzalez and guitarist Compay Segundo- have gone up to the big hootenanny in the sky.

I saw them, my first concert in the States, late fall 1999, cold and after the first snow, on a field trip with my Spanish class. Ms. Lundberg, whose Scandanavian surname always contained a cognitive dissonance in describing the tiny Cuban firecracker, rightly convinced the St. Paul Public School District that this was a cultural event that could not be missed and herded us all onto buses to Northrop Auditorium. I remember Ferrer grinning wildly and twinkling in the lights, the stately Omara Portuondo accompanying him and seeming to float above the rowdy joy from the band. They all lit up the stage, crackling with energy and a grace that made the music transcendent of the politics that had kept them unknown and almost scuppered the tour, and made a kid on field trip feel like things were connected at their very core by an excitement that could be made palpable- it was visible in the people standing, cheering, swinging out in the aisles to two-step, ushers standing to the side and everyone partying. Don’t deprive yourself of that kind of feeling, either live or on record.

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