Eliades Ochoa "rustic with a taste for musical adventure."

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Tuesday April 19, 2016

From The LA Times
By Kirk Silsbee

Music Review: A Cuban troubadour thrills the world stage

One of the more heart-warming musical sensations of the late 1990s was the emergence of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club package. String wizard Ry Cooder brought the group of obscure musicians and singers to the attention of the free world through concert tours and recordings; a Wim Wenders documentary solidified the phenomenon. In so doing, it pulled the curtain aside on some of the fast-fading musical traditions of the island. None of them were stars in their day but through the Buena Vista appearances, they finally tasted applause from cheering throngs.

Last August, Angelenos heard the group’s Hollywood Bowl stop on the farewell tour. Gone were pianist Ruben Gonzalez, singer Ibrahim Ferrer, and guitarist Compay Segundo; singer Omara Portuondo was somewhat ghostly. Aside from the noticeably younger band, the most vital featured performer was the sturdy guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa.

Unlike the others, he was not a veteran of the lavish revues and stage spectaculars of Havana’s pre-Castro nightlife. The 69-year-old Ochoa is a troubadour of the mountainous region on the east side of the island. He didn’t charm the audience like the elegant Ferrer, the flamboyant Portuondo, the sly Segundo or the stately Gonzalez. Ochoa, in his customary black cowboy hat, just sang his folksy, plaintive laments, accompanied by his robust, pointillist fingerpicking. His instrumental phrases were short but packed with verve and heart. In contrast to Buena Vista’s veneer of faded Copacabana glitz, Ochoa was bracing for his lack of pretense and straight-forward emotional communication.

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