×

Compay Segundo

Now that the members of the Buena Vista Social Club have split and are touring individually, the musical message of charm, elegance and propulsive rhythm remains undiminished. At 93, guitarist and singer Compay Segundo is the oldest of the bunch. More than the other Buena Vista alumni, he telegraphs a relaxed feeling in his stage presence, dancing gingerly to his percussionist's beat. In one love song he openly molested his guitar with his hands and his hips. It's amazing what you can get away with in your 90s; the audience loved it.

With:
Band: Compay Segundo, Hugo Garzon, Benito Suarez, Salvador Repilado, Rafael Fournier, Haskell Armenteros, Rafael Iniciarte, Rosendo Nardo.

Now that the members of the Buena Vista Social Club have split and are touring individually, the musical message of charm, elegance and propulsive rhythm remains undiminished. At 93, guitarist and singer Compay Segundo is the oldest of the bunch. More than the other Buena Vista alumni, he telegraphs a relaxed feeling in his stage presence, dancing gingerly to his percussionist’s beat. In one love song he openly molested his guitar with his hands and his hips. It’s amazing what you can get away with in your 90s; the audience loved it.

Segundo opened with backing from bass, a second guitarist and percussion, with Hugo Garzon adding maracas and handling most of the singing. The addition of Garzon is a wise and winning choice; his light tenor allows Segundo’s gravelly bass-baritone to play a strong contrast. The interplay between the two voices creates a feeling of drama that brings depth and subtlety to even the simplest songs.

Having Garzon along also allows Segundo to concentrate on his guitar solos, which are little marvels of composition. Using simple scales and patterns, Segundo enchants with his mastery of rhythm, often racing ahead of the beat, then dropping behind it and using syncopation as a rhythmic exclamation mark. His other musicians are masters as well, but Segundo takes all the solo space, like a man who’s certain he has a lot to say.

After five tunes, three clarinetists joined in (matching the instrumentation on Segundo’s most recent Nonesuch album, “Calle Sud”). Since clarinets are so rarely heard in popular music these days, this added even more of an old-world feeling to the evening. It underscored what’s made the Buena Vista Social Club so popular in the first place — the sense the music conjures of a life lived in pursuit of relaxed and shared beauty, come what may.

Segundo played a 1-1/2-hour set, and it looked like he could have easily handled another hour or two. He and his brethren are a continuing master class in how to play decades-old music with fresh joy and life. Segundo performs Friday at New York City’s Town Hall.

Popular on Variety

Compay Segundo

John Anson Ford Amphitheatre; 1,230 seats; $55 top

Production: Presented by House of Blues Concerts/Conga Room. Reviewed Aug. 31, 2000.

Cast: Band: Compay Segundo, Hugo Garzon, Benito Suarez, Salvador Repilado, Rafael Fournier, Haskell Armenteros, Rafael Iniciarte, Rosendo Nardo.

More Music

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 18:

    Billie Eilish Tells Crowd She Plans to Tour Behind... Her 2017 EP

    Okay, so it may just have been a way to get some crowd members who were dead-set on calling out requests off her back. But she seemed to mean it. At a show for SiriusXM and Pandora at L.A.’s Troubadour club Wednesday, Billie Eilish made an interesting vow to the crowd: She plans to tour [...]

  • UTA lobby in Nashville

    UTA's Nashville Office Sets 2020 for Move to Historic Downtown Library Building

    UTA has announced a forthcoming move to much bigger digs in Nashville, with plans to leave its current home at the Cummins Station complex in the first quarter of 2020 to make good on a signed lease on a major library building in the heart of downtown that’s being renovated for office use. Once construction [...]

  • Toni Cornell

    Chris Cornell's Daughter Toni Releases First Single, 'Far Away Places'

    Toni Cornell, the daughter of late Grammy-winning rockstar Chris Cornell, is carrying on her father’s musical legacy with her first single, titled “Far Away Places.” The song, which the 15-year-old wrote at 12 years old, was produced by her father in his home studio in Miami, known to be one of the last songs he [...]

  • Depeche Mode - Dave GahanLes Vieilles

    Depeche Mode Documentary Gets One-Night Theatrical Release

    Depeche Mode has reunited with the group’s long-time filmographer, Anton Corbjn, for a combination documentary/concert film, “Spirits in the Forest,” which Trafalgar Releasing has announced it will put on approximately 2400 screens worldwide for one night Nov. 21. The film documents performance footage from the Berlin dates of Depeche Mode’s 115-gig Global Spirit Tour of [...]

  • Patti SmithVariety's 10 Storytellers to Watch

    Patti Smith Talks Biopics, Beats and Losing Her Cool in Front of Bob Dylan

    On Thursday afternoon Variety partnered with IFP for the first “10 Storytellers to Watch” event, and among the novelists, lyricists, podcasters, playwrights, graphic novelists and brand storytellers who were honored was the pioneering singer, poet and author Patti Smith. The legendary artist received the Impact in Storytelling honor not only for her formidable body of [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    Judge Sides With Michael Jackson Estate in 'Leaving Neverland' Dispute

    A federal judge is leaning towards granting the Michael Jackson estate’s move to take HBO to arbitration in its dispute over the documentary “Leaving Neverland.” Judge George Wu issued a tentative ruling on Thursday in which he denied HBO’s motion to dismiss the estate’s case. Wu is expected to make the ruling final by the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content