Recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York City, July 1, 1998.
I recently watched the delightful animated movie Chico & Rita and that film, particularly its ending, reminded me of this sublime album. This is one of those rare live albums that puts the studio version to shame. I can't find anyone who can offer an explanation as to why it took ten years to release these exceptional recordings.
If you've seen the 1999 award-winning documentary, Buena Vista Social Club, then you are familiar with some of these performances as portions of this concert conclude that film. If you haven't seen that movie, you should watch it. If you have seen it, you should watch it again. This is wonderfully authentic Afro-Cuban music, played by the masters - the lived history of these musicians is palpable in their performances. Historically relevant and critically acclaimed, this album rates a 92 over at Metacritic. Credit to Nonesuch for including a liner note booklet that contains pictures, reminiscences from the musicians, and a review of the concert reprinted from the NY Times.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #200
Tracks: 16 tracks over 78 minutes (making a second CD necessary, barely). Of course, this should be heard from start to finish, but I think the stronger tracks are De Camino A La Vereda, La Engañadora, Mandinga, and Almendra.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Two years after this album was recorded, I had the pleasure of hearing this fine group play a concert in Houston. Most of the band members were still living at the time and put on a fantastic show; they were clearly having fun. The audience wasn't the usual "Society for the Performing Arts" crowd - these folks grew up with this music. They were rowdy, had conversations like they were at a night club, sang along with every tune, and cheered loudly following each solo and song. At first, I thought the crowd was being rude as I was trying to hear what the musicians had to say, but I quickly realized that I was applying my own cultural standards to another culture. I quickly adapted and joined right in with my fellow concert-goers. It completely changed the way I heard Afro-Cuban music. Great night.