Thursday, April 27, 2006

Buena Vista Social Club Sadlers Wells London

Buena Vista Social Club, Sadler’s Wells, London
By Mark Espiner
Published: April 25 2006 18:09 | Last updated: April 25 2006 18:09

It’s 10 years and 7m records since the Buena Vista Social Club broke the
bonds of Castro’s Cuba. When US musician Ry Cooder rediscovered the
indisputable talents of the septuagenarian singers and musicians, he
unleashed a musical spirit whose influence has been undimmed in a decade
and continues to grow. And after the Oscar-nominated documentary,
sell-out shows and their CD providing the soundtrack to a thousand
summer barbecues, the phenomenon has become a brand.

The Buena Vista Social ClubTM, as it is now known, sold out Sadler’s
Wells with none of the famous frontmen – simply as a presentation
vehicle for the musicians who were the backing band for that famous
record: Chachaíto López, Manuel Galbán, Guajiro Mirabal and Jesus
Aguagje Ramos. In other words, we are dealing with a spin-off here. That
doesn’t, however, diminish the dazzling talents of these musicians, nor
their ability, flanked by eight others, to leave audiences awe-struck.

Selecting material from bass player López and trumpeter Mirabal’s solo
records, the band played an energetic set. Ramos was an assertive band
leader, colouring the sound by splashing his hands at the four-strong
horn section and two percussionists like an action painter, before
rasping on his trombone. Slinky singer Idania Valdes stroked a guira
while her sidekick Carlos Calunga rivalled her with his footwork and
vocal skills.

The set stayed up-tempo, with Mirabal throwing in the odd jazz standard
quote – “Stormy Weather” and “Lullaby of Birdland” – to the Cuban beat,
but it all wobbled a bit with the guitarist Galbán, who, when he took
the solo spotlight, botched the riffs and runs, tripping over his own
fingers on the frets. Galbán is clearly a fine musician, but his gaffes
marred the show which the band had then to work at to salvage. By
contrast, stoney-faced López bowed and plucked his bass with beautiful
precision – and the young pianist Robertico Fonseca’s hands were a
dazzling blur on the keyboards, delivering truly exciting solos.

The evening closed with a track from the original record, “El Cuarto de
Tula” which was a fast-paced encore received to rapturous applause. So
while the trademark might encourage us to accept no imitations, the old
boys’ wonderful shadow was there, with a few limitations. ★★★★☆

Tel 0870 737 7737

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