Rychard Carrington reports on Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 15 March 2011

Omara Portuondo
Cambridge Corn Exchange, The

An almost full house was in a very good mood even before the show started, merely by dint of anticipation. People were confidently expecting something special, and something hugely enjoyable. Of course the Cuban musicians of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club met these expectations completely. We were treated to a sumptuous, solid two hours of music surely as joyful as any on the planet. Grace, elegance and dignity, as well as virtuosity and sheer musical instinct all played their parts in producing a supremely winning style which rendered the light, jazzy music so compelling. All this from a band who wear buttoned-up suits, of whom one imagines the majority to be grandparents.


Little English was spoken, but the elemental emotions in the songs were surely detectable. The ensemble sound of the twelve musicians - trombone (bandleader Aguaje Ramos) piano, guitar, double bass, three percussionists, three trumpeteers, two vocalists - was infectious, and there were numerous short solos.  In fact the feel of the music was somewhat reminiscent of what was popular party music here fifty ears ago, before rock and roll became so dominant.


Special guest was the eighty-year-old singer Omara Portuondo [pictured], who played her part as the grand chantreuse most admirably, exuding class and charm, professionalism miuxed with genuine passion for live prerformance. She soon got the audience up from their seats to swing their hips away.


The evening was a triumphant celebration; a wonderful example of the sheer happiness that good honest music can manifest.


Writer: Rychard Carrington