Eliades Ochoa Y El Cuarteto PatriaHOWCD-47494
Higher Octave Music/Higher Octave World
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Sublime Illusion is the title of the 1999 CD by Eliades Ochoa and Cuarteto Patria. The album is part of the popular Buena Vista Social Club series on the Higher Octave World label. Eliades Ochoa is the leader of Cuarteto Patria and plays the tres, a Cuban hybrid of the Spanish guitar. Ochoa is also the principal vocalist of the group which has been in existence for about sixty years. Dating back to 1939, Cuarteto Patria has been one of the most popular bands in Santiago, Cuba, known for performing boleros and romantic criollas. It was only after virtuoso tres player 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 the local musical forms son montuno, guarachas and country guajiras.
So fantastic is Ochoa's playing that world-renowned Cuban composer and classical guitarist Leo Brouwer once told him that he did not need to learn more about musical technique as he already knew too much. As previously mentioned, Ochoa's talents are not limited to playing the guitar. His singing here is well suited to the repertoire - passionate, yet restrained. There is excellent backup on second guitar, percussion and double bass by brother Humberto Ochoa, Roberto Torres and William Calderon respectively. Another relative, Eglis Ochoa, provides supporting vocals along with clave and maracas. The album consists of a few traditional songs such as Pintate Los Labios Maria, Que Humanidad, and Mi Sueno Prohibido, all arranged by Eliades. For the remainder of the CD, the band covers tunes by several other Cuban composers. Most notable of these composers are the legendary Miguel Matamoros with his song, El Trio Y El Ciclon, and an instrumental number titled La Comparsa by Ernesto Lecuona. American guitarist Ry Cooder makes a guest appearance on La Comparsa. David Hidalgo of Los Lobos adds his talents on guitar on two tracks: a guaracha named Que Humanidad, and a song called Teje Que Teje. It says a lot for these two artists that they were able to adapt to the Cuban musical genre so seamlessly. So understated is their playing with Eliades Ochoa and Cuarteto Patria that one never detects the 'outside' presence. The guest artist whose contribution really moved me was the American blues harmonica player, Charlie Musslewhite. I had never heard the harmonica in Cuban music before, but listening to Musslewhite's perfectly sympathetic contributions on Teje Que Teje made me realize how compatible the harmonica (or is it Musslewhite himself?) is with Cuban music.
This recording has a superb ambience about it, and the production is very clean. The English/Spanish liner notes are quite informative, with complete lyrics provided for each song. Higher Octave World evidently took much pride and care in issuing this recording.
Whether or not you are a fan of Cuban music, I doubt Sublime Illusion will leave you disappointed as it makes for such pleasant listening.
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz