Omara Portuondo: Flor de Amor

Omara Portuondo’s Flor de Amor (World Circuit/Nonesuch) is just that: a flower of love dedicated to classic old school son and boleros. Had she left Cuba before the revolution perhaps we’d have another First Lady of Cuban song along with Celia Cruz. In her 70s, the former Buena Vista star’s voice is strong on this CD, as she improvises over rhythms that make the hips sway and the feet move. Opening with the African influenced “Tabu” sets the pace for what is to follow: sophisticated rhythms that smolder rather than burn under Portuondo’s elegant, mahogany vocals. She is accompanied by three generations of Cuban musicians including the talented oud player Barbarito Torres and bassist Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez. Never overpowering, the music deftly supports Portuondo’s rhythmic word play and old school ballad phrasing.