Buena Vista Social Club®, the album produced by Ry Cooder, is the biggest selling world music album ever, with over 8 million records sold.
Now for the first time comes the recording of the historic performance at New York's famous Carnegie Hall, which became the centre-piece of the hugely successful film directed by Wim Wenders. This is only the second album ever by the original Buena Vista Social Club®.
Produced by Ry Cooder, the album features brilliant and unrepeatable performances by legends including Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, Ruben González, Eliades Ochoa, Omara Portuondo, Cachaíto López, and Guajiro Mirabal.
The original Buena Vista Social Club album was one of three projects recorded during the two-week session organized by World Circuit Records at EGREM Studios, Havana, Cuba, in March 1996. The session also produced Introducing Rubn Gonzlez and the Afro-Cuban All Stars' A Toda Cuba Le Gusta. The original concept for the Buena Vista Social Club was of a small guitar-based band, featuring Ry Cooder (who also acted as producer) playing alongside musicians from Mali and Cuba. However, this was abandoned after the two Malian musicians booked to play failed to arrive because of problems with their passports. The line-up for the session was finally comprised of musicians who had played on the Afro-Cuban All Stars album, including bolero vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer (b. 20 February 1927, San Luis, Cuba) and pianist Rubn Gonzlez (b. 26 September 1919, Santa Clara, Cuba, d. 8 December 2003, Havana, Cuba), plus others suggested by Cooder, such as veteran singers Compay Segundo (b. Maximo Francisco Repilado Munoz, 18 November 1907, Siboney, Cuba, d. July 2003, Havana, Cuba), Manuel "Puntillita" Licea Lamot (b. 4 January 1927, d. 4 December 2000) and Omara Portuondo (b. October 1930, Havana, Cuba), as well as Eliades Ochoa of Cuarteto Patria. The songs chosen for the session were a collection of Cuban classics, both old and new. The resulting album was gentle and folky but also passionate, with a variety of sounds and styles including piano instrumentals, acoustic ballads, dance tunes and a bolero sung by former lovers Portuondo and Segundo. Cooder described the recording session as "the greatest musical experience of my life" and he appeared happy to let the Cuban veterans take the spotlight, allowing his presence to be felt through his distinctive playing, as he had done three years earlier on Ali Farka Tour's Talking Timbuktu. The Buena Vista Social Club was released in June 1997, and was well received by the critics, featuring in many best world, Latin and folk album polls for that year. The album was awarded a Grammy for "best tropical dance album of 1997". It also appeared in many national album charts around the world and went on to sell millions, but earned Cooder a $100,000 fine from the US state department for breaching the embargo against Fidel Castro's communist regime.
Released two years later, Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer, featured the venerable vocalist performing a varied programme of up-tempo dance tunes, swampy sounding Cuban-blues fusions and lush, string-laden boleros. Cooder again produced and played guitar. Other contributors to the first album, including Ruben Gonzalez, were again involved, alongside other well-known Cuban musicians. Ferrer promoted the album with tours of Europe and the USA. A documentary film, Buena Vista Social Club, was made in 1999 by German director Wim Wenders and was shown in cinemas and on television throughout the world. The third instalment in the series featuring Portuondo ("Cuba's Edith Piaf"), was released the following spring. Cooder recorded one further album in Cuba with local guitarist Manuel Galban, for which he was granted a special exemption from state department rules by outgoing US president Bill Clinton.
Track List :
DE CAMINO A LA VEREDA
EL CUARTO DE TULA
BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB
¿Y TÚ QUÉ HAS HECHO?
Octavio Calderón - trumpet
Joachim Cooder - drums / percussion
Ry Cooder - guitars
Terry Domech - congas
Ibrahím Ferrer - vocals
Roberto García - bongos, cowbell, guiro
Hugo Garzón - vocals
Juan de Marcos González - bandleader, backing vocals, güiro
Rubén González - piano
Manuel 'Puntillita' Licea - vocals
Pío Leyva - vocals
Orlando 'Cachaíto López - bass
Manuel 'Guajiro' Mirabal - trumpet
Eliades Ochoa - guitar, vocals
Omara Portuondo - vocals
Jesús 'Aguaje' Ramos - bandleader to Ruben González, trombone
Salvador Repilado - bass
Compay Segundo - guitar, vocals
Benito Suárez Magana - guitar
Barbarito Torres - laoud
Alberto 'Virgilio' Valdés - maracas
Amadito Valdés - timbales
29th September 2008
Thrilling live album from Cuban icons-in-the-making (4 stars)
The story of Buena Vista Social Club - ageing Cuban virtuosi assembled into a supergroup by visiting American producer Ry Cooder; sell eight million records; find fame outside of the island; win Grammy - remains remarkable 10 years after the fact. Now the names Compay Segundo, Rùben González, Ibrahim Ferrer (all deceased) and Omara Portuondo are considered world music elite, but when they and the other BVSC players stepped on-stage at a sold-old, ecstatic Carnegie Hall in 1998, less than a year after recording their album, they were still unknown to most Americans. For the show, 10 of the self-titled studio LP's tracks were reprised, often faithfully, but with more verve and panache. Six more meet that standard. Produced by Cooder, At Carnegie Hall, doesn't so much add to the legend as confirm the original was no studio-contrived fluke.
29th September 2008
Tenth Anniversary memento of their legendary one-night-only Carnegie Hall show
In 1996, Worldcircuit boss Nick Gold went to Havana to meet guitarist/ producer Ry Cooder and bandleader/ talent scout Juan de Marcos González. The idea was to rendezvous with some Malian musicians also heading that way and record them collaborating with local artists. However, visa shenanigans meant the African contingent failed to show, so an alternative, improvised plan emerged. The result was a multi-generational group of acknowledged veterans, overlooked luminaries and younger players that became known as the Buena Vista Social Club.
Their eponymous album has since become the biggest selling word music album of all time, at eight million sales and counting. A year after its 1997 release, the group appeared at Carnegie Hall - one of the only three live shows they ever did. The occasion was immortalised in Wim Wenders' atmospheric documentary, and now this live double disc set commemorates that occasion.
Naturally, At Carnegie Hall has a different sound and energy from the mellow, intimate feel of Buena Vista Social Club in the studio. "Records are one thing and live music is to me a 110% different situation," Cooder told me when asked how the two albums differ. "You have a dynamic situation...something that unfolds dramatically, so that the audience is brought along."
To put it another way, these 77 minutes of music race by in a blur of fevered excitement, from the opening twin vocal intro of Eliades Ochoa and Compay Segundo on Chan Chan to the closing calm of Silencio, the diaphanous duet between Ibrahim Ferrer and 'Buena Vista Sister' Omara Portuondo. In between, we're reminded of just why they made such a global impact, with their unforgettable tunes and peerless music mastery.
Barbarito Torres steals the show early on with a gymnastic laoud solo El Cuarto De Tula. Their phenomenal pianist Rùben González is the next to grab the limelight on the brief but sweet La Engarñadora and the languid instrumental 'title' track, which finds him wandering around the keys with dizzying virtuosity. There are two other outings from his ravishing solo debut, in Mandinga and shortened version of the surreally beautiful danzón Almendra. And then there's Ferrer, fresh from recording his own solo debut, crooning through Dos Gardenias and showing a more fiery face on Candela.
'Gracias, Company Segundo, muchas gracias' Omara Portuondo murmurs the project's guiding light as she finishes singing Veinte Años with him. This was no empty platitude. It really sounds like she meant it.
27th September 2008
Watching Wim Wenders' Buena Vista Social Club film nowadays is rather like watching return of dad's Army - with only vampish Omara Portuondo and the cowboy Eliades Ochao surviving as the Clive Dunn and Ian Lavender on this ageing collective. This double-CD set captures the gang in their finest two hours at Carnegie Hall in 1998, and is probably better set than the Grammy-winning studio album. The complete recording reveals many (until-now) hidden delights that we can enjoy in full. They include Rùben González's terrific jazz flourishes on "Siboney" and 'Mandinga", the duelling guitars on "En Cuarto de Tula", the frenzied vocal duet on "Quizás Quizás" (known to Doris Day fans as "Perhaps Perhaps") and Ry Cooder's Duane Eddy guitar on the lovely "Silencio".
24th September 2008
The Buena Vista Social Club were an international phenomenon: a multi-generational group of Cuban musicians who won fame by stealth back in 1998, when their eponymous album rose like a Phoenix and went straight to the top of the charts. A decade and eight million album sales later comes this live 2-CD recording of their famed night at Carnegie Hall. Here are the foreign yet familiar sounding strains of such humalong tunes as 'Chan Chan', 'Dos Gardenias' and 'Quizas Quizas', arranged on a bed of acoustic guitars and related string instruments and made all the warmer by the circumstances. Backing musicians the calibre of the bassist Cachaito Lopez and Barbarito Tores provide a solid-rock foundation for vocalists including Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo - both of whom, like the jazz pianist Rùben Gonzalez, have passed away since. This inevitably imbues the disc with even more misty-eyed nostalgia. But here they all are: overjoyed, superbly talented and very much alive. Rated 4 stars.
17th September 2008
"From oblivion to becoming The Beatles!"
Wim Wenders recalls the Buena Vista Social Club "fairytale"
It is the ambition of many to be name-checked in a song by Half Man Half Biscuit. In one of the tunes on their new album CSI: Ambleside there is a lyric that, when they played the song at the Cornbury Festival, provoked a ripple of recognition. It concerned the ubiquity in executive cul-de-sac land of the Buena Vista Social Club CD. Becoming a cliché of British social attainment: it isn't bad for a bunch of musicians who were all north of their eighties when they were finally, at last, gifted the worldwide recognition their skill deserved.
The Buena Vista Social Club was a place in Havana that in the 1940s served as a gathering place for Cuba's jazz performers. Soon after the revolution, it shut its doors and its beguiling soundtrack was lost for nearly half a century. In the early 1990s, the Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González and Ry Cooder found some of the original club members, got them together in the studio and recorded the result. It was phenomenal. Cooder then got the band together and took them to Amsterdam, where the German Director Wim Wenders filmed their efforts. He also took footage at their subsequent Carnegie Hall concert and interviewed some of the now very old original players. The concert has just been re-released in a lavishly extended CD package and the resulting movie was nominated for an Oscar in 1999. It was a movie that was impossible to watch without the feet tapping. And the eyes filling with tears at the joy the performers had at finally being able to play once more the music that had remained unheard for so long. For Wenders, it was a movie he still cherishes.
What do you remember of the occasion filming the concert? Can you describe the chemistry between performers, audience and director?
Everybody was so excited that the most difficult task was to keep a cool head. For some of the Cuban musicians, this was the very first stay in New York - or at least the previous one was, like, 50 years ago. And their visas were for two days only - a miracle in the first place that they got them. Anyway, it was mayhem. No real time for a rehearsal. A quick soundcheck only. And remember: this was not a real band! They had never played together expect this one time in Amsterdam, a month earlier. Ry Cooder had invented this band, they were his creation. These men, as old and experienced as they were, they were nervous like a high-school band before the gig. I had seen stage fright before, but this was more than just a fright. They seemed terrified. And there was a scary amount of rum being consumed. But then, when they finally got onstage, there were the coolest cats. As a filmmaker trying to film the event, I couldn't have been dealt a tougher deck of cards. My cameramen and women were not allowed to carry headphones or even a walkie-talkie. I was unable to be in touch with them. I couldn't even place them during soundcheck. All of that was against some absurd union rules. So I placed my three cameras as good as I could and tried to run from one to the other. I was dripping wet after a while. I made gestures to them over the heads of the audience. I climbed on chairs to give them signals. It was miserable. We were not allowed onstage with any of our cameras but at the end of the show, at the last encore, I told my director of photography to just storm on to the stage and shoot the hell out of it. All they could do was throw us off. The greatest thing was what happened afterwards. We all ended up in some remote bar in New Jersey, and all the musicians jammed with some local Cubans until dawn. Then they had to get on a bus and drive to the airport. Their visas didn't allow them to stay.
Did you appreciate the concert's significance at the time?
Yes, somehow. It dawned on me that night in New York that what we had witnessed with our cameras, during the weeks in Havana, the subsequent and surprising concert in Amsterdam and now during the culmination in Carnegie Hall, was in no way a simple music documentary. We had actually followed - and lived - a fairytale! The path of these men - from being totally forgotten, from shining shoes in the streets of Havana, to world stardom had happened inside the parameters of our film! We had been so utterly lucky to accompany them coming out of oblivion and becoming The Beatles! It was very touching to watch Ry during the Carnegie Hall concert. He was so essential to the project; without him nothing would have happened, neither the CD nor the movie, and yet he was trying to hide onstage, in order to leave centre stage for the old men.
Your movie introduced the group to the world. Did you feel like an evangelist? Was you motive to give them the exposure they deserved?
I loved the music when Ry played it to me the first time, long before it ever came out. And making the music reach as many people as possible was the only aim. But when we planned the shoot, nobody could possibly predict the success of the film. Music documentaries were out; no such movie had had a major and successful release any more for at least a decade. Documentaries were practically no longer happening in cinemas. Buena Vista Social Club was going to change all that, against all odds. But did these "super-avuelos" deserve that? Nobody in front of my camera, in 40 years of filmmaking, deserved it that much!
Many of the guys have died - are you still in touch with any of those still around? Have you seen them playing recently?
I saw them all performing for years, in all sorts of places all over the world. And then one after the other they died. First Compay [Segundo, the guitarist] in 2003, who was 95. Then Rùben [González in the same year], who was 83. Then finally Ibrahim [Ferrer, the singer] in 2005, when he was 78. They are just starting to tour again, the remaining band, but I have not seem them yet. I shot a little thing with Pio Leyva in Havana - that was fun. I saw one of Compay's last concerts and he sent me a huge bouquet of flowers. I almost cried when I saw who they were from.
What effect did you film have on their lives?
Compay said to me, a couple of years after the film came out, "This is the best time of my life." He was way in his nineties then...Can you possibly have more effect on somebody's life? But the success didn't change their hearts. They waited so long. It was not going to ruin them.
Are there other equally unknown groups out there you would like to do the same with?
I made a film about the blues, produced by Martin Scorsese, called The Soul Of A Man about three forgotten Blues giants: Blind Willie Johnson, JB Lenoir and Skip James. But these men were long dead, so the film couldn't have any impact on their lives any more. But my heroes certainly reappeared out of out of oblivion thanks to the film.
The film kick-started a wave of interest in Cuban music - do you consider yourself a trendsetter?
Profession: "trendsetter". I'll write that on my registration next time I'm checking into a hotel. No, nobody could foresee that "Cuban trend." Out film just hit a right nerve at the right time.
It's a favourite movie of so many people. At what point in the process did you appreciate you had something special on your hands?
In the editing room. When I slowly found out what emotional impact the film had. First on myself and my editor, and then on my wife and the friends who visited us in the cutting room. When we saw out first finished print, even the colourist and the projectionist were dancing...
The band members seemed very relaxed but also quite unworldly in the movie. Did you ever wonder about what you might be unleashing on them?
No. We shot fast and furious, and the musicians got used to having us around. We lived in the moment, during the studio recordings, in Havana, in Amsterdam and also in New York. I didn't feel uneasy, neither before not afterwards because these men so much appreciated the attention, ours and the later world's.
How does it fit into your canon of work?
As a director, I don't judge my films by their acceptance or "success". I remember them for the experience, or the daily satisfaction during the making. And as such, BVSC remains a unique and utterly joyful time in my life. It never felt like work, neither the shoot nor the editing.
13th July 1998
Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club made its United States debut at Carnegie Hall last week, and the stage fairly ached under all the stories. Consider that singer Ibrahim Ferrer, who's been singing for more than 50 years, had been shining shoes on the streets of Havana when he was recruited to help record the collection of traditional Cuban songs that became "Buena Vista Social Club." And that retired pianist Rubén González, 78, had to chase away the effects of arthritis as his fingers rediscovered their old paths around the keyboard. At Carnegie Hall, a playful González couldn't stop blowing kisses to the adoring audience.
And then there was Compay Segundo, an active musician and prolific songwriter since the 1920s and a living incarnation of the folkish style of music known as "son." Segundo, who is 91, helped to shape the sound of son by inventing a seven-stringed instrument called the "armónico," which doubled the guitar's "D" string to produce a cross between the Spanish guitar and the Cuban tres. At Carnegie Hall, he spun out the kind of sweetly lyrical solos that can come only from caressing steel and wood for the better part of a century.
The concert ended with a bolero titled "Silencio," and the duet partners, Ferrer and Omara Portuondo, spent the instrumental portion dancing in slow romantic circles. The moment was calculated, corny and, like most of the evening, altogether irresistible. It was the kind of cerebral fish-out-of-water scene that you might imagine in a Wim Wenders film -- he was there, in fact, with cameras running.
"The Buena Vista Social Club," which has already sold nearly a million copies around the world, is the hip hit of the season among the older demographic that I think of as the "midrock" crowd, and which guitarist Ry Cooder, who produced and played on the album, has been known to call the "Jeep Cherokee set." These are often affluent, well-educated music buyers in their 30s and 40s who don't often relate to the rap, rock and pop that dominates the youth-driven pop charts. This is an audience more likely to take its cues from NPR than MTV, and whose interests are often piqued by a sense of the exotic. And these days, Afro-Cuban music has become as sweetly seductive as the smoke of a contraband cigar.
Still, the success of "Buena Vista Social Club" is far beyond that of most world music releases. Language is often the toughest barrier to widespread acceptance of international artists. Part of the reason that Bob Marley became not just the biggest star in reggae but the most widely heard world-music artist is that he sang in English. "Buena Vista Social Club" includes a lavish booklet with informative liner notes and translated lyrics, but for those like me who are linguistically challenged, the vocals are destined to be heard more as musical sounds than literal language.
The mostly son-based music of "Buena Vista Social Club" manages to sound both foreign and familiar, with arrangements that are thick with a folkish bed of guitars and related stringed instruments. The collection's sweet, almost pastoral vibe is established by its first track, a haunting, minor-key tune by Segundo called "Chan Chan." Cooder's no novice at such hands-across-the-water collaborations. He's already won Grammy Awards for recent collaborations with Rajastanian guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt ("Meeting by the River") and Mali's Ali Farka Touré ("Talking Timbuktu"). And he's long enjoyed a reputation as a highly tasteful musicmaker, with his early albums introducing many to the music of such gifted artists as Blind Blake, Joseph Spence, Flaco Jimenez and Sleepy John Estes.
The challenge for the midrock (or Jeep Cherokee) listener is where to go after "Buena Vista Social Club." A logical next step is "A Toda Cuba le Gusta" by the Afro-Cuban All Stars, which includes many of the same players as "Buena Vista Social Club" but focuses on Afro-Cuban jazz, with bold horn lines and quicker tempos imbuing the music with Latin swing. González, who helped develop the mambo and brought jazz harmonies to Cuban music, is featured on both albums as well as on a solo effort, "Introducing ... Rubén González." Though his playing is consistently inventive, this collection of Cuban tunes in the "descarga" (jam session) is less distinctive than the other two discs.
Expanding my Latin horizons beyond the traditionalist world of these albums proved to be a bit bewildering. What I was looking for was propulsive percussion and inspired instrumentalists. Browsing through the various-artist compilations in a number of large, well-stocked record stores, I was confronted by hundreds of discs on unfamiliar labels that were filled with artists beyond my limited knowledge. Consequently, I gravitated to collections on labels known for authoritative reissues.
Rhino, whose extensive reissue catalogue has long managed to mix the monumental with the marginal, has lately moved into the Latin market with a variety of compilations. "El Rey Del Timbal!" is a splendid disc dedicated to Tito Puente, the veteran band leader and timbale player best known to old rock fans as the composer of an early Santana standard, "Oye Como Va." Tracks stretching over nearly 40 years reveal Puente to be a master of creating dynamic interplay between syncopated horn lines and percolating percussion. Finding that one disc was just not enough. I also picked up a compilation on Concord of tracks from the '80s and '90s, "Oye Como Va! The Dance Collection." Frankly, now I've got enough Tito, but then, that's the way a midrocker dabbles.
If you're looking to imagine yourself dancing the night away with mobsters in a Havana nightclub before the arrival of Fidel Castro, then you might enjoy "Mambo Mania!" The collection is filled with swinging moments, but there's also a campy element to these vintage dance tunes that is driven home by the inclusion of a tune by Desi Arnaz, who became the best-known of all Cuban musicians by becoming the sitcom straight man for his wife, Lucille Ball.
"The Original Mambo Kings" (Verve) predates "Mambo Mania!" and focuses on the New York jazz world of the late-1940s. The disc is dominated by the work of a pair of seminal Havana-born musicians, trumpeter Mario Bauza and a vocalist known as Machito. Besides tracks by Machito and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra, the collection also includes an "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite" with Charlie Parker on alto sax, and one of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's epic excursions into Latin jazz, "The Manteca Suite."
As my Latin collection grew, it became clear that I preferred music that tended toward Afro-Cuban jazz than more pop-oriented tunes that took clear aim at the dance floor. This distinction was sharpened by another pair of Rhino compilations, "Salsa Fresca! Dance Hits of the '90s" and "Sabroso! The Afro-Latin Groove." The former is a good introduction to the slick and rhythmic sounds of contemporary salsa, but it also suggests that in these global days, the highly polished sounds and techniques of commercial dance music crosses the boundaries of different musical genres. Consequently, much of "Salsa Fresca!" strikes me as no deeper nor more memorable than a collection of yesterday's English-language dance tracks.
By contrast, "Sabroso!" breathes the kind of Latin fire that'll appeal to rockers raised on the sounds of Santana. The majority of the tracks are from the 1960s, and while the instrumental improvisations are clearly inspired by the sounds of jazz, the rhythmic grooves also show the influence of rhythm & blues and funk. It's not the title of tunes like Willie Bobo's "Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries" and Mongo Santamaria's "Sweet 'Tater Pie" that makes "Sabroso!" a most delicious musical meal. It's the deep rhythmic grooves that left me searching for the ultimate albums by artists like Joe Cuba and Mongo Santamaria.
Another explanation for preferring "Sabroso!" over "Salsa Fresca!" could be that while my introduction to Latin music has included familiarizing myself with these and a few dozen other discs, it's yet to include a night of dancing. That is where the hips will finally meet the beat, an image that puts fear into the heart of somebody who came of age during the days of free-form hippie dancing. Maybe that's why I was so charmed by those dancers shuffling slowly around the stage of Carnegie Hall. Looking at those swinging senior citizens, it was almost possible to believe that a midrocker still had time to learn how to really dance.
The New York Times
3rd July 1998
POP REVIEW; Ceiling Fans, Courtly Men And a Whiff Of Old Cuba
The Buena Vista Social Club basked in the latest wave of Cubaphilia when it performed on Wednesday night. The concert was more than a musical occasion. Musicians from Cuba in their 70's, 80's and 90's, some emerging from retirement, were making their United States debuts at no less than Carnegie Hall.
They had been rediscovered by an English recording company, World Circuit, and an American guitarist, Ry Cooder, who produced and played on their Grammy-winning album, ''Buena Vista Social Club'' (Nonesuch). Wim Wenders was filming the concert, and a largely non-Hispanic audience gave an uproarious welcome to songs that date back as far as the 1920's.
With the bittersweet delicacy of a classic bolero, the Buena Vista Social Club simultaneously celebrated the vitality and virtuosity of its musicians and mourned the era they embody. The concert began with ''Chan Chan,'' an elegiac, minor-key love song in an old rural style; it ended with ''Silencio,'' a bolero with the singers Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo dancing cheek to cheek. In a love song about an unforgettable old flame, the 91-year-old guitarist Compay Segundo sang, ''Hoy represento el pasado'' (''Today I represent the past'').
Some of the featured musicians were side men for the great Cuban innovators of the 1940's and 1950's. Mr. Ferrer, who had been shining shoes for a living before the Buena Vista sessions in 1996, sang alongside Beny More; Ruben Gonzalez, who had retired in 1991, played piano with Arsenio Rodriguez and with Enrique Jorrin. Working with members of a younger traditionalist group, Sierra Maestra, they preserve an era when Latin music was danceable but not frenetic, restrained yet puckish, and sensual but not blatant. Mr. Ferrer and Mr. Segundo sang with sweet, rounded tones, less cutting than current salsa singers, as the lyrics reveled in passion or reminisced about lost love.
The concert toured old Cuban styles: the son, with its spider webs of fingerpicked guitars (partly lost in Carnegie Hall's acoustics), and the danzon, with an almost stealthy pace and, in Mr. Gonzalez's hands, some grand Romantic piano flourishes. There were also ebullient cha-chas and mambos that turned into descargas (jam sessions).
Octavio Calderon and Manuel Mirabal made their trumpets beg and tease; Barbarito Torres, on the laoudc (12-string lute) played whizzing lines and jabbing dissonant chords. Mr. Segundo's guitar solos were gleaming and languid, lazing behind the beat and then sprinting.
Mr. Cooder, the best-known musician to the United States audience, stayed discreetly in the back row onstage, now and then adding a hint of countryish guitar. He emerged to play alongside Mr. Segundo in the ragtime-flavored ''Orgullecida,'' adding jazzy slide-guitar chords that suggested Western swing. In the bolero, ''Y Tu Que Has Hecho?,'' Mr. Segundo, who has spent his career singing second, or harmony, vocals, sang lead in a baritone full of ardor and authority. Mr. Gonzalez was the group's most determined crowd pleaser, splashing across the piano with two-handed chords, ending phrases with sweeping glissandos and quoting Liszt during a danzon. In one tune, he carried a solo up to the top of the keyboard and beyond, playing the air while the audience cheered.
The music was rich with tenderness and nostalgia, suggesting a world of tropical ease and prerevolutionary innocence. Part of Cuba's new appeal to the outside world is the notion, partly illusory, that its isolation has made it a time capsule, maintaining styles that have been overrun by hectic commerciality elsewhere. But these Cuban musicians, an apparition made possible by shifts in politics, ambition and taste, are not disappearing again. Mr. Gonzalez, Mr. Ferrer and other core members of the Buena Vista Social Club will be touring the United States in the fall, keeping Cuba's past in the present.