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Buenos Hermanos

Buenos Hermanos

by Ibrahim Ferrer

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Ry Cooder and his Buena Vista Social Club pals painted themselves into one exquisite corner with the multi-platinum success of their Cuban all-stars. After resuscitating the careers of senior-citizen singers such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, and Omara Portuondo with nostalgic, sepia-toned albums that reprised Havana's greatest hits,


Ry Cooder and his Buena Vista Social Club pals painted themselves into one exquisite corner with the multi-platinum success of their Cuban all-stars. After resuscitating the careers of senior-citizen singers such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, and Omara Portuondo with nostalgic, sepia-toned albums that reprised Havana's greatest hits, how to keep them fresh? With this risky, rewarding set, Ferrer's follow-up to his 1999 1.5 million seller, the Club shows off muscle that's as surprising as Ferrer's preternaturally preserved croon. The velvet-voiced singer was ready for it, having since recorded with Senegal's Orchestra Baobab and Damon Albarn's Gorillaz, but what fun it is to hear his Nat Cole warble over the low-rider honk of the title track, or lighting a fire under "Oye Consejo," the rock 'n' roll rumba that closes the disc. Anchored by the same gang that recorded Cooder's excellent Mambo Sinuendo -- Manuel Galbán on guitar and organ, Orlando "Cachaíto" López on bass, conguero Miguel Angá Díaz, the traps duo of Jim Keltner and Joachim Cooder, and plenty of ringing guitar by Ry himself -- Buenos Hermanos aims at making Cuban music history rather than just recapturing it. Guitar licks duke it out with piano solos by maestro Chucho Valdés; eccentric percussion clatters and crashes; organs growl; accordions honk; and Afro-Cuban vamps gather a loose-limbed, jam-band intensity. Cooder gives Ferrer a chance to show off his lisping pipes on a bolero or two, but with a difference -- "Naufragio" (Shipwrecked) has a boozy sentimentality that Tom Waits would envy. "Perfume de Gardenia," featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama and some breathy baritone sax, has a New Orleans R&B feel. Indeed, in contrast to the dusty BVSC groove, the atmosphere here is steamy, especially when Ferrer and friends fire up son montuno, as on "Hay Que Entrarle a Palo a Ese," which borrows its organ vamp from Eddie Palmieri's classic Sing-Sing rendition of "Vamonos Pal Monte." From the start to finish, this engaging set proves that the old Social Club is still a plenty lively place.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Ibrahim Ferrer, the "official" lead vocalist of Buena Vista Social Club, and producer Ry Cooder take numerous chances and many labyrinthine journeys (guaranteed to piss off all of the purists) on their third collaboration for the World Circuit/Nonesuch label, yet manage to come up with the most beautiful fruit of their collaborative efforts to date. The pair took tons of chances, recording both in Havana and in Los Angeles and bringing in not only additional musicians among Cuba's top session players -- such as guitarist and keyboardist Manuel Galban, Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez on bass, and Miguel Diaz on congas, to name three of more than a dozen -- but also adding Jim Keltner to the drum mix, along with Cooder's son, Joachim, who handles these chores on every track. Keltner, the younger Cooder, Ry, and Galban also play together on a few tracks. But add to this already eclectic mix master Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes and vanguard textural trumpeter Jon Hassell as well as the Blind Boys of Alabama on one cut and you have a recording that is at once celebratory, charming, eclectic, and, well, brilliant. Ferrer's talents as a vocalist transcend all boundaries and musical types, yet he makes every song a Cuban song, one rooted in the earthy spirit of his native Havana. "Perfume de Gardenias" has the Blind Boys replacing Ferrer's regular Cuban chorus of backing vocalists and features the great saxophonist Gil Bernal as well as Galban on a wonderfully understated yet commandingly melodic piano. The track lies in the seam, where the Blind Boys add a more restrained and rounded backing to Ferrer's pricelessly gorgeous croon; Bernal and Galban move this folky ballad into the realms of a jazz/pop tune, and it still comes off as a firmly Cuban song, rooted in the heat, the rhythm, and the passion of everyday life in Havana. "Mil Congojas," which follows immediately, features the band backed by a string orchestra. Ferrer feeds off the atmospherics and allows his voice to literally drip from his throat and enter the mix as if he were singing to the angels. In addition, coming off these two ballads, so silky and gorgeous, is "Hay Que Entrale a Palo a Ese," a steaming son with a large percussion section shoring up the backing chorus and Ferrer using a rapid-fire delivery to add to the rhythmic intensity of the track. In addition, there is Valdes' "Boliviana," a folky love song rooted in the traditional melodies of Cuban Indios and extrapolated to fit a more contemporary Afro-Cuban musical framework -- Abdullah Ibrahim himself could have composed the music here, so saturated in South African melodic and harmonic structures it is, with Valdes' sense of blurred, elongated time signatures and shifting rhythmic patterns. Hassell's trumpet adds a wonderfully simplistic element to the female backing chorus and Ferrer pours his heart into every crack and crevice of the song, splitting it wide open and letting its longing show through. The record closes with a burner, "Oy el Consejo," once again a traditional call-and-response son tuned into an intensely rhythmic polysyllabic poem via Ferrer's no-holds-barred vocal. In sum, this album reveals what is truly possible when musicians of other cultures get together to serve the music, not individual talents. And though Ferrer proves himself yet again to be one of the world's greatest treasures as a singer, he is always loyal to Cuba, ever the slave of the rhythm, ever the angel of the song itself.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ibrahim Ferrer   Primary Artist,Vocals
Clarence Fountain   Vocals
Jon Hassell   Trumpet
Ry Cooder   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Joe Williams   Vocals
Chucho Valdés   Piano
Jim Keltner   Drums
Gil Bernal   Tenor Saxophone
Joachim Cooder   Drums
Flaco Jiménez   Accordion
Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez   Bass
Enrique Navarro   Viola
Modero Mekanisi   Alto Saxophone
Miguel "Angá" Diaz   Bongos,Conga,Claves
Luis Alemañy   Trumpet
Manuel "El Guajiro" Mirabal   Trumpet
Demetrio Muniz   Conga,Coro
Javier Zalba   Alto Saxophone
Isél Martínez   Bongos
Rogelio Martinez   Violin
José Antonio Rodríguez   Coro
Antonio Jimenez   Tenor Saxophone
Bernardo Choven Garcia   Conga
Gerardo García   Violin
Alejandro Pichardo   Trumpet
Amadito Valdés   Timbales
Lázaro Villa   Coro
Alfred Thompson   Tenor Saxophone
Roy Avila   Cello
Ventura Gutierrez   Baritone Saxophone
Pepe Maza   Coro
Hugo Cruz   Violin
Robert Herrera   Viola
Mario Fernandez   Violin
Manuel Galbán   Organ,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Electric Guitar,Coro
Ricardo Fernandez   Viola
Rafael 'Jimmy' Jenks   Tenor Saxophone
Arelis Zaldivar   Cello
Dennis Manuel   Coro
Roberto Fonseca   Piano
Marta Amelia Salgado   Viola
Iván Valiente   Bass
José G. Marón   Viola
Silvio Duquesne   Violin
Ana Julia Badia   Violin
Ariel Sarduy   Violin
Pantaleón Sánchez   Alto Saxophone
Andrés Escalona   Bass
Carla Commagere   Coro
Juliette Commagere   Coro
Alejandro Rodriguez   Cello

Technical Credits

Ry Cooder   Producer
Miguel Matamoros   Composer
Jerry Boys   Engineer
Nick Gold   Executive Producer
Marcelino Guerra   Composer
Demetrio Muniz   Musical Director
Rosendo Ruíz   Composer
Ibrahim Ferrer   Composer
Agustín Lara Y Sus Ritmos   Composer

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