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Ry Cooder, Ibrahim Ferrar, Ruben Gonzalez, Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo



Ibrahim Ferrer

The son and bolero master vocalist had a fabled entrance into this world: he was born in Santiago in 1927 at a social club dance. He began his career in the early 1940s with local musical outfits in Santiago. Like most musicians, he had a succession of “day gigs” to make ends meet, jamming by night. In the 50s, he was the lead vocalist for bandleader Pacho Alonso, and also sang for the legendary Beny Moré. At the time of the Buena Vista sessions, Ferrer was living in a decaying apartment in Old Havana; like many of the Buena Vista elders, Ferrer was in semi-retirement, occasionally shining shoes for money. Juan de Marcos González found him taking his daily stroll on the streets of Havana—and the rest is, as they say, history.

Rubén González

Over his more than five decades in music, Rubén González has played with many of the great ones (including stints with Mongo Santamaría and Arsenio Rodríguez) and is himself a legend, universally regarded as one of the pioneers of Afro-Cuban piano style. In his youth, he attended medical school, thinking that he’d be a doctor by day and a musician at night, but he left school for his first love, the piano. In the forties and fifties, he was one of a trio of virtuoso pianists (with Luis ‘Lili’ Martínez and Percuchín) who helped lay the foundation for the mambo by marrying African rhythms with the freedom of American jazz improvisation. In the 1960s, González joined Enrique Jorrín (the creator of the cha-cha-cha), performing with the legendary bandleader until Jorrín’s death in the mid-80s, and ‘retired’ shortly thereafter. He led a quiet life in Havana until Buena Vista producer Juan de Marcos González dragged him down to EGREM Studios for the now-legendary recording sessions.

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