1LP Vinyl – WCV065

Ibrahim Ferrer, the “official” lead vocalist of Buena Vista Social Club, and producer Ry Cooder take numerous chances and many labyrinthine journeys (guaranteed to piss off all of the purists) on their third collaboration for the World Circuit/Nonesuch label, yet manage to come up with the most beautiful fruit of their collaborative efforts to date. The pair took tons of chances, recording both in Havana and in Los Angeles and bringing in not only additional musicians among Cuba’s top session players — such as guitarist and keyboardist Manuel Galban, Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez on bass, and Miguel Diaz on congas, to name three of more than a dozen — but also adding Jim Keltner to the drum mix, along with Cooder’s son, Joachim, who handles these chores on every track. Keltner, the younger Cooder, Ry, and Galban also play together on a few tracks. But add to this already eclectic mix master Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes and vanguard textural trumpeter Jon Hassell as well as the Blind Boys of Alabama on one cut and you have a recording that is at once celebratory, charming, eclectic, and, well, brilliant. Ferrer’s talents as a vocalist transcend all boundaries and musical types, yet he makes every song a Cuban song, one rooted in the earthy spirit of his native Havana. “Perfume de Gardenias” has the Blind Boys replacing Ferrer’s regular Cuban chorus of backing vocalists and features the great saxophonist Gil Bernal as well as Galban on a wonderfully understated yet commandingly melodic piano. The track lies in the seam, where the Blind Boys add a more restrained and rounded backing to Ferrer’s pricelessly gorgeous croon; Bernal and Galban move this folky ballad into the realms of a jazz/pop tune, and it still comes off as a firmly Cuban song, rooted in the heat, the rhythm, and the passion of everyday life in Havana.