Tributo Al Cuarteto Patria is Eliades Ochoa's retrospective on the 60th anniversary of the seminal quartet founded in 1939 by Pancho Cobas and led by Ochoa since 1978-and a superb coda to last year's Sublime Ilusión (both recordings won Grammy nominations). Cuarteto Patria is arguably the most distinguished Cuban quartet today, in no small part because Ochoa, who began his career as an 11-year-old street singer, ranks among his generation's finest vocal and guitar stylists. Ochoa's throat-catching tenor conveys a profound lyricism, with a dazzling guitar style to match his vocal intensity, making Tributo... an elegant, passionate blend of 13 son, bolero and guaracha numbers that exemplify the quartet's singular history. Sister María Ochoa adds her voice on a romping son, "No Quiero Celos," spiced with the blistering trumpet of Anibal Ávila. An interpretation of the Beny Moré classic "Yiri Yiri Bon" takes the music back to its roots; indeed, in 1958 Eliades performed the son for Moré to the singing great's delight as he was having his shoes shined on the street in Santiago. Ávila contributes another textbook essay in Cuban trumpet style on "Si Sabes Bailar Mi Son," providing a sublime setting for Eliades' ardent vocals. Veteran trovador El Guayabero, 88 years old and still singing, adds a gravelly edge to "Por Culpa De Las Mujeres," a cautionary note to the would-be womanizer, featuring a three-way exchange between trumpet, guitar and the fine tres work of guest Rey Cabrera Castellanos. "Me Voy Pa' Sibanucú" presents an extended break highlighting the patented Ochoa guitar signature. Also heard are two Compay Segundo classics, "Calderito de Tostar Café" and "Clara Bella." Beyond its musical virtuosity, this is an enhanced CD with video footage of the band performing, brief video interviews with guest artists, historical photographs and biographical data, altogether confirming the artistry of one of Cuba's national artistic treasures. - Michael Stone
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