Gracias

Gracias

by Omara Portuondo
     
 
Who says you can't teach an old diva new tricks? At 78, Omara Portuondo, the Cuban vocalist who had nearly settled into retirement before the advent of the Buena Vista Social Club in the late '90s gave her international recognition, makes a bold move with Gracias. Although Portuondo's Cuban roots are evident throughout -

Overview

Who says you can't teach an old diva new tricks? At 78, Omara Portuondo, the Cuban vocalist who had nearly settled into retirement before the advent of the Buena Vista Social Club in the late '90s gave her international recognition, makes a bold move with Gracias. Although Portuondo's Cuban roots are evident throughout -- as if she could ever lose them -- the singer looks toward Brazilian forms, into jazz and beyond for this collection, produced by Brazilians Alé Siqueira and Swami Jr. And if Portuondo sounds closer to 48 than her actual age, it's easy to imagine that was part of the plan: there is a barely contained youthful spryness to her delivery of this material, an implicit statement that Portuondo is thrilled to be stepping out of the proverbial box in which she's lived -- metaphorically speaking -- for the better part of a half-century. To drive the point home, the producers have recruited an all-star support team boasting wide credentials: Israeli-born jazz double-bassist Avishai Cohen and Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona, Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, and vocalists Chico Buarque (from Brazil) and Jorge Drexler (Uruguay) are among the contributors, as are Cubans Pablo Milanés (vocals), Chucho Valdés (piano), Roberto Fonseca (keyboards), percussionist Andres Coayo and producer Swami Jr., who provides the rich acoustic seven-string guitar on several tracks. A string section adds sweetening here and there, and Rossio Jiménez shares vocals with her grandmother on one track, the quasi a cappella "Cachita" -- the album's only true clunker. From the sparingly orchestrated lead track, Henri Salvador's ballad "Yo Vi," and its successor, "Adiós Felicidad," which allows Cohen a generous solo spot, it becomes apparent that Portuondo is looking to spread her wings here. On "Rabo de Nube," amidst Cohen's bass bowing, Fonseca's broad sweeps of piano and Fender Rhodes, the seven-string, and Gurtu's tablas, Portuondo emotes with gusto but not in an over the top manner. Rather she eases into her vocal, before letting herself drift along with the cresting wave that the song becomes. On the sprightly "Ámame Como Soy," Portuondo rides atop the rhythm, presenting the Spanish lyrics -- in a duet with Milanés -- in a singsongy voice that manages to avoid the melodramatic flourishes another, less experienced singer might have injected. A variety of moods and sonic approaches lend the album its diverse flavors -- stark drumming here, a rush of strings there -- and while Portuondo does at times lapse into the saccharine, those lapses are forgivable in a set that recharges the career of a singer who could easily have coasted for the rest of her life.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
"Gracias" includes tracks in which Portuondo doubles up with Chico Buarque, the Brazilian Renaissance man of performing arts; the Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés, co-founder of the so-called nueva trova style of politicized progressive-folk music; and Chucho Valdés, the Cuban bandleader, pianist and composer. Portuondo has known some of these artists, like Valdés and Buarque, for decades. Other relationships were formed more recently, such as her teaming up with Jorge Drexler, the Uruguayan singer-songwriter who won an Academy Award for composing the song "Al Otro Lado del Río" (The Other Side of the River) for the 2004 Che Guevara biopic, "The Motorcycle Diaries."

Product Details

Release Date:
12/09/2008
Label:
World Village Usa
UPC:
0794881898428
catalogNumber:
479021

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Omara Portuondo   Primary Artist,Vocals
Chico Buarque   Vocals,Background Vocals
Trilok Gurtu   Tabla,Caixa,Djembe
Chucho Valdés   Piano
Pablo Milanés   Vocals,Background Vocals
Jorge L. Chicoy   Electric Guitar,Tres
Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez   Double Bass
Michel Bessler   Violin
Bernardo Bessler   Violin
Avishai Cohen   Background Vocals,Double Bass
Jorge Drexler   Vocals,Background Vocals
Andres Coayo   Bongos,Conga,Maracas,Claves,Bata,Guiro,Kettle Drums
Richard Bona   Percussion,Vocals,Background Vocals,Double Bass
Ale Siqueira   Background Vocals
José Alves Da Silva   Violin
Ricardo Amado Da Silva   Violin
Roberto Fonseca   Piano,Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals,fender rhodes
Marie Christine S. Bessler   Viola
Rossio Jiménez   Vocals
Passaroto   Viola
Márcio Eymard Marald   Cello
Lopes Prazeres   Violin
Julio Guerra   Bata
Jorge Kundert Ranevsky   Cello
Jesuína Noronha   Viola
Felipe Fortuna   Violin
Daniel Paiva   Violin
Antonella Lima Pareschi   Violin

Technical Credits

Chico Buarque   Composer
Trilok Gurtu   Arranger,Sound Effects
Chucho Valdés   Arranger
Daniel Viglietti   Composer
Amaury Perez   Composer
Avishai Cohen   Arranger
Henri Salvador   Composer
Jorge Drexler   Composer
Andres Coayo   Arranger
Richard Bona   Arranger,Audio Production
Ale Siqueira   Arranger,Audio Production
Roberto Fonseca   Arranger
Silvio Rodríguez Domínguez   Composer
Ernesto Grenet   Composer
Pedro Pablo Milanés Arias   Composer
Modo Michel   Composer
Martín Bernardo Rojas Torriente   Composer
Ela O'Farrill   Composer
Bernardo Sancristóbal Santibanez   Composer
Ariel Jiménez   Composer
Alberto Vera Morua   Composer
Swami   Arranger,Audio Production

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