Buenos Hermanos (Nonesuch/World Circuit, 2003)
If someone told me that Ibrahim Ferrer possessed the ability to charm a bird out of a tree with one song I’d believe him. The proof is in Buenos Hermanos, Ferrer’s latest CD on World Circuit-Nonesuch Records. Of Buena Vista Social Club fame, Ferrer, in his mid 70s, sings with a mature voice that’s still smooth and silky, with none of the cheap gimmicks overused by other singers intended to demonstrate to an audience how hard they work. It is Ferrer’s charisma and love a good song that shines through that makes each song on Buenos Hermanos sparkle.
On Buenos Hermanos, Ferrer teams up with recognized Cuban greats Chucho Valdés on piano, Orlando “Cachaito” López on bass and Manuel Galbán taking turns on piano, organ and guitar. Producer and famed musician, Ry Cooder, slips in some slick licks of his own on electric guitar, while his son, Joachim Cooder, plays drums. As an added surprise, the Blind Boys of Alabama lend their lovely sound to the track entitled No Tiene Telaraña. All in all it is still Ferrer’s show.
Title track “Buenos Hermanos” doesn’t disappoint with Galbán on organ, Cooder on electric guitar, punctuated by some pretty fabulous saxophone playing and the call of a Chinese cornet. “La Musica Cubana” is a tribute to the fathers and mothers of Cuban music with a delightful call and response ending, honoring the likes of Orestes López, Lilí Martínez and Tito Gómez. Slow, dreamy numbers like “Naufragio,” “Perfume de Gardinias,” “Mil Congojas” and “Fuiste Cruel” are sure to entice the most reluctant dancer out onto the dance floor. “Hay Que Entrarle A Palos A Ese” is a lively number with an organ solo by Manuel Galbán and a brass section that demand mention, and the English lyrics of this song printed on the liner notes are well worth a read.
With the political climate such as it is and Ry Cooder on the U.S. government’s bad boy list for violating the Cuban Trade Embargo with the Buena Vista Social Club project, this might be the last we hear of these kinds of U.S.-Cuban musical collaborations for a while. Buenos Hermanos and Cooder’s recently released Mambo Sinuendo with Manuel Galbán might just have to hold us until we find ourselves in saner times. The shame is that the artists that appear on CDs such as Buenos Hermanos and Mambo Sinuendo are good, too good to be held as political hostages.