Cigars, Grammy, Guarachas, and Boleros
A voice like this
we won't see again," says Ry Cooder regarding Buena Vista Social Club singer
Ibrahim Ferrer. "Ibrahim must surely be one of the most effective singers
I've ever heard. It's so difficult these days to find this kind of inner voice
that comes through this humble exterior. Hes completely open. The improvisation
and the spontaneity of his phrasing is like a very intricate jazz solo. But
he's also the master of the bolero. Now most people can do either one or the
other. He can do both."
After the success
of Buena Vista and various solo efforts from that legendary Cuban band, Cooder
presents Ibrahim Ferrer to an adoring public ready for more simmering guarachas,
sones and boleros. Like a gorgeous fossil frozen in time but still alive for
the ages, the Buena Vista musical logo has become a global sensation - and Ferrer
is their acknowledged star. Ferrers debut solo recording, Buena Vista
Social Club presents Ibrahim Ferrer, has sold 1.5 million copies and spread
his fame from Tokyo, Japan to Joplin, Missouri.
Buenos Hermanos showcases an amazing singer at the peak of his powers - and
the apex of his extraordinary life. Its bubbling, contagious music is even more
vibrant and passionate than Buena Vista, but then, Ferrer and company have had
a few years to regain the power of their 1950s peak.
A former shoeshine boy, Ferrer has met everyone from Bruce Willis to Fidel Castro.
He has sung with Gorillaz and Orchestra Boabab. Hes won the Grammy. He
still smokes massive Cuban cigars, but he no longer lives in a cramped and dingy
Havana apartment. Most importantly, Ferrers voice equal parts romantic
paean to another age and contemporary voice of a nearly lost style - is at an
absolute stylistic peak. Surrounded by Cooder and Manual Galbans guitars,
Jim Keltners drums, Guajiros trumpet and Cachaito Lopezs bass,
Ferrer soars on Buenos Hermanos. The music is magic, moving from atmospheric
ballads to righteous large band blowouts to romantic barrio grooves. To the
previous musicians, Cooder enlists pianist Chucho Valdes, trumpeter Jon Hassell
and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Though grounded in Cuban tradition, this music
is full of risks, from Cooders solos to Keltners oddball drumming.
But what holds it all together is Ferrers voice. When he begins to belt,
nothing else matters. On Perfume de Gardenias the Blind Boys replace
Ferrer's regular Cuban chorus; the Blind Boys adding a more subtle backing to
the master vocalists heavenly croon. Mil Congojas features
the band backed by a string orchestra. Ferrer simply stuns here, and will transport
you from any condition you inhabit to a world of waves, beauty and hot sun.
Hay Que Entrale a Palo a Ese fires the imagination with a large
percussion ensemble and Ferrers Busta Rhymes worthy delivery. Buenos Hermanos
is too lofty and sublime for words; it must be experienced.
After six years of messing around with these Cubans, Cooder told
Nigel Williamson, we've all learned to work together in the most amazing
way. I hope that people carry [this] around and play it in their car because
it's just so beautiful.
The market's been flooded with Latin records in the last six years. Go
to the megastore and the Cuban section is now bigger than the whole African
section. Were drowning in this stuff. But you dont have many opportunities
to do something like this. I think it is as great a Latin record as has ever
been made. From the humble man who came back and re-emerged into the modern
world, now Ibrahim is at the head of the class. I dont think anybody else
would or could make a record like this. And I think he really likes it.
In Ibrahim Ferrers words: I dont want you to think I say this
with pride, but Im happy, Im here and Im fighting!