- 20 Mar 01
With music like this, why would anybody want to exit stage left of Havana?
With music like this, why would anybody want to exit stage left of Havana? We've basked in the glory of The Buena Vista Social Club; we've lolled in the pristine solo outings of Ibrahim Ferrer and Rubin Gonzalez. Now, finally (and long overdue) we can wallow in the magnificent pathos of Omara Portuondo.
Her sonorous voice left its mark on the Social Club long ago, but it took a while for the industry to catch up with her majestic talent. Portuondo has been variously compared with Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf. Such shorthand fails to capture her essence though: there are no blueprints for the music she has made.
A vintage 50's atmosphere suffuses Omara. Her heritage stretches back over no less than 5 decades. Purveyor of the finest Cuban jazz style known as 'filin', and founder member of the Big Band, Cuarteto Las D'Aida, she's earned more than her stripes on dancefloors and Julietian balconies alike. 'La Sitiera', the opener, is a plaintive and wistful lament that's louche and aristocratic in one and the same breath. 'Canta Lo Sentimental', a bolero, shuffles atop an alto sax that hints at the eroticism that's so dazzlingly central to this Cuban music.