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October 2004

Candido/Graciela
Inolvidable
Chesky Records

As the CD cover's black-and-white photos attest, Cuban conguero Candido and singer Graciela have a long history, as a duo and as individual artists. From their Cubop heyday to the present, they have been setting standards in the kind of Latin music that's given more to simmering than sizzling. Which is not to say this great disc is lethargic. On "Conga Jam," for example, Candido and guest Manny Orquendo pound up a welcome storm of traditional polyrhythms. Similarly, the second movement of the two-part title track gradually builds a nice head of steam before the inescapable repetitions of "In-olvi-da-ble!" that punctuate the end of the song.

The overall mood is, however, unquestionably sultry. Whether on Latin standards like "Cachita" or classic torch like "Tu Me Acostumbraste," Graciela uses her smoky voice to good effect, creating an unforced intimacy that is consistent throughout. It's certainly not lost on their supporting cast. Pianist Sonny Bravo, violinist Frederico Britos Ruiz, bassist Andrew Gonzalez, flutist Eddie Perales and Nelson Gonzalez on that most Cuban of instruments, the tres, are more than happy to go where the two headliners lead: never too insistent in their accompaniment but by no means passive. Special guest Xiomara Laugart shares some of the vocals, particularly on "Desvelo," but the majority of the songs are in Graciela's inimitable rasp. Her voice may have lost just a bit of its former power, but her interpretive capacity remains undiminished even despite her advanced age (88).

Inolvidable features excellent sound quality, in the service of some time tested compositions, interpreted by some committed and confident musicians. It's very much old school-and proud of it.

Originally published in October 2004
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