No matter how many CDs of Cuban music you own, you will not regret acquiring this latest release from the legendary Eliades Ochoa & Cuarteto Patria. This is the real thing, totally acoustic, rootsy and incredibly rhythmic. Cuarteto Patria was one of the most popular bands known for performing boleros and romantic criollas in Santiago, Cuba since 1939. However, it was only after virtuoso guitarist and lead singer Eliades Ochoa joined the band in 1978 that the group shot to national prominence and international acclaim. Much of that attention was due to his popularization of local musical forms son montuno, guarachas and country guajiras.
So fantastic is Ochoa's playing that world renowned composer and classical guitarist Leo Brouwer once told him that he needn't learn any more since he already knew too much. Ochoa's talents are not limited to playing the guitar. His singing here is well suited to the repertoire, passionate without sounding frantic. There is excellent backup on second guitar, percussion and double bass by brother Humberto Ochoa, Roberto Torres and William Calderon respectively. There are two classic Miguel Matamoros boleros: Lagrimas Negras and Y Tu Que Has Hecho, and a couple of Puerto Rican numbers including a traditional plena. Most of the tracks were composed by the Cuban duet, Los Compadres. Of these, the most outstanding is a son montuno called Sarandonga. On this beautiful, danceable song, Ochoa's guitar-playing really shines.
Upon listening, one is immediately struck by the superb quality of the recording. What makes this so surprising is that the album captures the feeling and ambiance of a live recording. At first listening, one does not imagine that it was recorded in a clinical studio setting. You feel as if you are right there soaking up the "joie de vivre" of the Casa de la Trova, where Eliades Ochoa & Cuarteto Patria perform daily. This is happy music played with a verve and joy that can only come from musicians. One se nses that those musicians would pursue their craft even if there was no monetary reward involved.