The Telegraph Omara & Chucho album review

The Telegraph Omara & Chucho album review



Omara Portuondo & Chucho Valdés: Omara & Chucho, CD review of the week

Omara & Chucho is packed with full-blooded songs and lush, grand chords. Rating:****

By Mark Hudson

You can hardly go wrong with these two Cuban old stagers. She's the tiny, velvet-voiced diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, still waiflike at 80.

He's gigantic, the towering - in all senses - genius of Cuban jazz piano, probably now the island's greatest instrumentalist at a mere 69.

According to legend, the teenage Valdés attended a rehearsal with his pianist father, the great Bebo Valdés, and fell for Portuondo, then a showgirl. While she charmingly brushed off his gift of red roses, a lifelong friendship developed that wasn't explored musically until their 1997 album Desafios. If that feels slightly too cutesy a premise on which to approach any album, there's a sense of shared themes and preoccupations, developed separately, but running back decades, effortlessly cohering on this set of unhurried Latin ballads.

Starting with a few beautifully nonchalant phrases from Beethoven's Moonlight sonata, Claro de Luna sets the tone, Portuondo's husky delivery rising from the intimate to the declamatory in typically Hispanic fashion. Valdés's playing perfectly balances the virtuosic and the understated, rolling out rippling, quasi-classical ornamentations one moment, brushing in the melody with the most muted touches the next.

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