By Celia Cruz - RMM (2000) - Cuban Traditions, Latin Jazz, Latin Pop
Celia Cruz & Friends: A Night of Salsa is taken from a PBS broadcast recorded in Hartford, CT, on May 12, 1999. With the help of Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, La India, and Isidro Infante & the RMM Orchestra, Cruz prances her way through an assortment of career favorites like "Mi Vida Es Cantar" and "Azucar Negra" and more traditional Latin classics like "Guantanamera."
Celia's "friends" at this 1999 tribute concert are Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco and La India. The direction and production are as smooth as they get, and Cruz herself introduces each cut in her mellifluous Cuban accent: Even when she's talking, it sounds like she's singing. Her extraordinary voice is now lower and even more resonant than in her youth.Particularly stirring is her cover of the bittersweet Cuban mega-hit "La Vida Es un Carnival." Cruz's duet with La India, "La Voz de Experiencia," manages to outdo the original studio version; the salsa princess' obvious ecstasy at sharing the stage with La Reina adds some real spice. Of course, there are the old standards, including a medley of "Babalu," "Siboney" and "El Cumbachera," the raucous "Quimbara," "Usted Abuso" and an improvised version of "Guantanamera" featuring the entire cast. Celia sings her trademark "Bemba Colora" better and better over the years; here it's a veritable incantation, with her voice backed sparely by piano, light percussion and a shadowy chorus. -- From Rhythm Magazine