Palabras comprises a dozen gems from "Cuba's Edith Piaf," the reigning interpreter of the ballad-like filin ("feeling") style, in which jazz and son influences seamlessly meld. Many will recognize Portuondo from her consummate vocal pairing with Ibrahim Ferrer in the Buena Vista Social Club film. She also has recorded with such Cuban luminaries as Chucho Valdés, pianist and founder of Irakere, and the late sonero, Marcelino Guerra, on his last issue, Rapindey (also available on Nubenegra, and superb listening in its own right). Regrettably, the album notes offer no background on the singer, only the Spanish and English lyrics. These are love songs, bittersweet reflections on human memory, longing, desire, departure and betrayal. Timeless standards include "Drume Negrita" (Ernesto Grenet), "Y Tal Vez" (Juan Formell), "La Vida Es Un Sueño" (Arsenio Rodriguez), "Tardes Grises" (Sindo Garay) and "Si Me Pudieras Querer" (Ignacio Villa "Bola de Nieve"), backed by a solid combo of piano, keyboards, guitars, trumpet, sax, trombone, accordion, bass, drums, Cuban percussion and vocal chorus. — Michael Stone
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