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Live from Carnegie Hall: Buena Vista Social Club

Our summer-long Live from Carnegie Hall series that focuses on albums that feature artists and music of Latin America continues with the Carnegie Hall and US debut of one of Cuba's most famous musical exports—the Buena Vista Social Club—of which the July 1 anniversary nears.

Another key figure in spreading Cuban music internationally—pianist and bandleader Chucho Valdés—serves as one of the four artistic advisors of our upcoming Voices from Latin America festival and performs two concerts during the festival.

Artist: Buena Vista Social Club
Album: Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall
Label: Nonesuch
Date Recorded: July 1, 1998
Fun Fact: The Carnegie Hall concert was only the second time the full Buena Vista Social Club lineup had performed together.

Although its roots stretch back to World War II–era Havana, the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon went global in 1997 with the release of the Ry Cooder–produced eponomyous album. The upshot of the worldwide interest in the music and musicians was a 1998 concert in Amsterdam followed by their Carnegie Hall concert, which All About Jazz dubbed "the pinnacle of the Buena Vista project." Wim Wenders filmed the concert for inclusion in his Buena Vista Social Club documentary (which came out the following year), but it was a decade after the concert that the full recording was finally released on CD.

The concert was a sellout, with Jon Pareles of The New York Times recounting evocatively, "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 full lineup on that historic night of music was Octavio Calderon, trumpet; Joachim Cooder, drums; Ry Cooder, guitar; Terry Domech, congas; Ibrahim Ferrer, vocals; Roberto Garcia, bongos; Hugo Garzon, maracas; Juan Marcos de González, güiro; Rubén González, piano; Pio Leyva, vocals; Manuel "Puntillita" Licea, vocals; Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, contrabass; Benito Suarez Magana, guitar; Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal, trumpet; Eliades Ochoa, guitar and vocals; Omara Portuondo, vocals; Jesus Ramos, trombone; Salvador Repilado, contrabass; Compay Segundo, guitar and vocals; Barbarito Torres, lute; Alberto "Virgilio" Valdés, maracas; and Amadito Valdés, timbales.

While three of the real stars of the concert—Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, and Compay Segundo—all died between the live event and the release of the recordings, other members of that night's lineup—including Eliades Ochoa and Omara Portuondo (who performed here as recently as late 2010)—continue to tour internationally.


Buena Vista Social Club performs "Chan Chan" at Carnegie Hall in the Wim Wenders film about the group.

The three-sheet poster that hung outside Carnegie Hall to advertise the Buena Vista Social Club concert.

Voices from Latin America
Voices from CubaDecember 1, Chucho Valdés Quintet
December 4, Egberto Gismonti, Piano | Danilo Pérez, Piano | Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Piano | Chucho Valdés, PianoLive from Carnegie Hall Series
History of the Hall

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