Omara Portuondo | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Omara Portuondo 

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The Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon continues unabated, with one minor player after another from the Wim Wenders film emerging as a late-blooming star in the U.S. The latest is singer Omara Portuondo, the sole female musician of the lot, who magnetized the crowd that packed the Chicago Theatre to see Ibrahim Ferrer a year ago. In the 50s and 60s Portuondo was a popular cabaret-jazz singer, and in the late 90s a pair of albums for the Spanish label Nubenegra--Desafios, a duet with pianist Chucho Valdes, and Palabras, a decent medium-size-group recording--showcased her lovely, supple voice without much panache. Buena Vista Social Club Presents Omara Portuondo (Nonesuch) is a vast improvement: the gorgeous time-traveling production of Nick Gold and Jerry Boys and a stellar cast of musicians that includes singers Ferrer and Pio Leyva, pianist Ruben Gonzalez, and guitarists Eliades Ochoa and Compay Segundo give Portuondo's vintage style a warm golden glow. Singing like a torch temptress on "No me vayas a engañar," an eloquent but world-weary sonera on "No me llores mas," and a brassy mambo queen on "¿Donde estabas tu?," Portuondo displays stunning range and flexibility with a minimum of flash. The great laud player (and fellow Buena Vista Social Club beneficiary) Barbarito Torres opens the show with his excellent band. Thursday, October 12, 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; 312-443-1130 or 312-902-1500.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Donata Wenders.


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