Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Concha Buika is a critically acclaimed flamenco fusion vocalist from Spain. Born in 1972 in Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain, she is the daughter of political refugees from the African nation of Equatorial Guinea. She made her full-length recording debut with Buika (2005) on Dro Atlantic. She collaborated with accomplished producer Javier Limon for her second album, Mi Nina Lola (2006). Her breakthrough release, Mi Nina Lola, sold over 100,000 copies in Spain. She collaborated with Limon again for her third album, Nina de Fuego (2008), which garnered a Latin Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Though Buika was frequently acclaimed by critics, the nomination came as a surprise, as she was little known outside the Spanish flamenco fusion scene." -Jason Birchmeier, All Music Guide
Having featured her songs in several of his film soundtracks, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar dreamed up the idea of a tribute concert to celebrate the 90th birthday of legendary singer Chavela Vargas. The concert took place in Havana in April 2009 performed by another of Almodóvar's favourites, Mallorcan flamenco singer Concha Buika with Cuban piano maestro Chucho Valdés. The live show was an absolute triumph and was immediately followed by a recording session resulting in El Ultimo Trago. Buika and Valdés pay homage to Chavela Vargas by pouring genuine emotion into their interpretations of her Mexican rancheras and boleros, tinged with flamenco, jazz and rumba.
Billboard (p.61) - "[T]ogether they create a smooth and potentially addictive musical cocktail."
Personnel: Buika (vocals).
The pairing of Afro-Majorcan vocalist Concha Buika and Afro-Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés has apparently been a long time coming. But they are here together on this lovely recording, featuring songs from a wide variety of composers, in a handful of duets, or with the Valdés' band backing them. El Ultimo Trago -- translated as "The Last Drink" -- is as much a tribute to Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, a major influence on Buika. She's a passionate singer with a dusky, slightly raspy, thin, and gritty voice, but she sure can belt out a song like a great blues singer, or Cape Verdean contemporary Césaria Evora. While coming from the land of flamenco, this music retains the son quality of Afro-Cuban music, in great part due to the professional expertise Valdés adds to the musical arrangements, not necessarily the lyric content. Those expressions come from a romantic context, telling tales of lessons in life sung in Spanish, mostly brief and to the point, made more elegant by the legendary pianist, who as usual can do no wrong. The consistency of these recordings from track to track reflects the romantic notions of these great musicians, from the slow, sultry cha-cha form of "Soledad" and "Sombras," to the light son "Cruz de Olvido" with the magnificent, regal, traditional-styled piano playing of Valdés, "Se Me Hizo Facil" where Buika's singing is at times exuberant, or the bolero type "Somos" with chiming chords from the pianist. The uptempo clave beat of "El Andariego" incites a more animated Buika and instills Valdés to jump into a montuno bridge, and a very lively "Luz de Luna" is pushed along by the skilled trumpet playing of Carlos Sarduy. Bassist Lazaro Rivero Alarcón, percussionist Yaroldy Abreu Robles, and drummer Juan Carlos Rojas Catro lay out on several selections, as Buika and Valdés go it alone for the passionate "Las Cuidades," the short, quaint, classic waltz "En El Ultimo Trago," the lilting "Las Simplas Cosas" that bears resemblance to the croon tune "Besame Mucho," or the delicate closer "Vamonos." Clearly a chemistry exists here, beautifully exotic, with Buika as the shining star to be discovered and fully illuminated, with Valdés as her colorful spotlight technician. It's unlikely you'll find a better pairing of an amazing singer and accompanist anywhere else, no matter the music type, but if you enjoy the classic Latin song performed with every ounce of emotion available, this recording will be impossible to resist. ~ Michael G. Nastos