On this 13-track recording of voice and piano duets, there is no doubt from the first note to the last that you are experiencing the complete mastery of two Cuban music legends. Individually, the genius Valdés brings to his instrument, the piano, and the dramatic, bluesy, off-the-cuff singing (in Spanish) of the husky, pitch-perfect, purely articulated Portuondo, can both easily stand alone. But together, in this setting, they are making magic. You'll hear a variety of themes written by non-published Cuban composers (two by Valdés, ) suggested on the spot in the studio. It allows the two a rare spontaneity and freedom from rhythmic structures that is created, not produced. There are songs of love, regret, straight blues, the indomitable spirit of the oppressed Cuban peoples, pleading for salvation, and especially, lost in depression ("No Puedo Ser Feliz" ("Cannot Be Happy").
Album released in 2000 which marked the consolidation of the global projection of veteran Cuban singer Omara Portuondo (Havana, 1930). It was the winner of the 1998 Grammy Award for "Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album" and was the most sold, over 8 million copies since its release. The album includes Cuban musicians Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, Ruben González, Elíades Ochoa, Omara Portuondo, Guajiro Mirabal and Cachaíto López, being presented in the acclaimed 1999 documentary by Wim Wenders on the group, also called Buena Vista Social Club. Omara was close to 70 when she recorded this work.
Omara Portuonda is the grand old lady of Cuban music. While her early recordings made her a star in Cuba, her participation in the 1996 album and video documentary, The Buena Vista Social Club, brought her to international attention. Her solo album, The Buena Vista Social Club Presents Omara Portuondo, released in 2000, reinforced her status as one of Cuba's greatest musical ambassadors.
A native of Havana, Portuondo was one of three daughters born to a baseball player on the Cuban national team and a woman of Spanish heritage who left the comfort and support of her wealthy family home to marry the man she loved. Her parents' singing provided the soundtrack for her early life. As a youngster, she sang in school choirs and music classes.