World & Latin

The Last Cha Cha


By the time Cuban-born guitarist, pianist and arranger Manuel Galbán left this world in July 2011, he had compiled a six-decade body of work as a prolific collaborator with the likes of Los Zafiros, Ry Cooder and Buena Vista Social Club. Guitar One cleverly but accurately described his signature sound as "that big-reverb, Latin-flavored electric guitar sound that you expect to hear in both cool bachelor pads and spaghetti westerns." Blue Cha Cha is Galbán's two-disc, CD/DVD set that captures that alluring sound.

Ironically -- and perhaps tragically -- it's his first solo recording and his final album at the same time. It's a collection of 12 songs culled from the Afro-Cuban, bolero, Latin American and rhythm and blues traditions of the past century. Along the way, Galbán enlists the help of numerous friends -- many of whom are longtime disciples of the aforementioned styles.

The diversity of guests speaks to the versatility of the music. Delta blues troubadour Eric Bibb joins Galbán for the smoky and grooving title track, while Grammy-winning vocalist and fellow Buena Vista socialite Omara Portuando reunites with the guitarist for the melancholy "Duele." Mali-born Ballaké Sissoko plays kora alongside Galbán's guitar in the lively and percussive "Batuca," while Rosa Passos brings her sensual vocals to the beautifully rendered "Alma Mía."

Disc 2 includes a historical documentary DVD filmed in Havana and Paris, and interviews with Bibb, Passos, Portuondo, Magda Rosa Galbán (the artist's daughter), Trio Esperanca, and many others.

Manuel Galbán's Blue Cha Cha is very much a career retrospective, and everything a final recording should be, says Magda Rosa Galbán. "With this album," she said, "he could see his dreams come true, and I hope that God enjoys his music as much as we have here on earth."