Any fan of Latin American music knows the name Celia Cruz. Spending the better part of her life performing firstly in the band La Sonora Matancera for 15 years before striking out solo, she has produced over 70 albums in her career.
This concert, aired in the Southern Americas and performed at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in South Florida in 2003, sees Celia fighting a brain tumour and quite weak from treatment. She and her husband of 41 years Pedro Knight (from La Sonora Matancera) are the guests of honour here as the cream of the Latin American music industry bestow their thanks and praise upon her. Sadly, Celia Cruz died in July 2003 at her New Jersey home, making this tribute concert the one and only she ever received.
Celia Cruz herself has accomplished a great deal for both her people and for women in music. Born on October 21 in Havana, Cuba, she won a talent contest at her friend’s bequest which led into a long and fruitful career that has seen her appear in ten films, rated mentions in many others and sees her credited as the most influential Afro-Cuban singer of all time. She is a 19-time nominee and five-time winner of the Grammy and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has also received three honourary degrees from US Universities and received an acknowledgement from the U.S. Government for the national Endowment for the Arts. Certainly a long and florid parcel of accolades.
Here we are granted 18 performances from all manner of Latin American and Afro-Cuban performers. They all resonate with the bright and happy atmosphere generated by the style of music in this tribute concert for a living legend. Performances are (with my highlights in bold type):
- La Vida Es Un Carnaval - Victor Manuelle
- La Candela - Paulina Rubio
- Usted Abuso - José Feliciano
- Isadora Duncan - Milly Quezada
- Dile Que Por Mi No Tema - Los Tri-O
- Quimbara - Gloria Estefan & Patti LaBelle
- Tu Voz - Ana Gabriel
- Bembo Colora - Gilberto Santa Rosa
- Guantanamera - Tito Nieves & Albita
- Vieja Luna - Alicia Villarreal
- La Negra Tiene Tumbao - Olga Tanón & Mikey Perfecto
- Cúcala - Jose Alberto ‘El Canario’
- Caramelo - India
- Burundanga - Rosario
- Castellano - Luis Enrique
- Yerbero Moderno - Marc Anthony
- I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
- Yo Viviré y Quimbara - Celia Cruz and All Stars
While the majority of this looks as a show shot to TV in 2003 (and at 4:3) should look, there are occasional moments of grainy film footage either in soft black and white or decayed by film artefacts. However, the majority looks sharp with plenty (and I mean plenty) of well-saturated colours. Blacks are true and shadow detail, while not common, looks fine.
The audio package here is dynamite, without question. Plenty of evenly distributed tracks through the surrounds and the subwoofer just does not stop. Granted us in the major choices of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, DTS 5.1 or Dolby Digital stereo, there’s something here for every home theatre. The sound is clear and crisp with some nice lingering resonance and overall it’s almost like we are there. The entire thing (mostly) is spoken in Spanish but English subtitles are provided for those (like me) whose Spanish isn’t so good.
As to extras, there are a hearty swag here. The first is Celia’s Final Performance which isn’t as grim as it sounds, but rather a 1:44 song on stage after the credits have rolled in the main feature. Maybe ten minutes have passed on stage since the finalé, but due to Celia’s illness, she couldn't perform it at the conclusion until this point. This still is her final performance, however.
There's 22 minutes of red carpet coverage of the guests and performers arriving and 25 minutes of rehearsal footage included as well. 12 minutes of special performers messages follow that as does an interview with Celia’s husband, Pedro Knight.
Celia on Celia is culled from various interviews from as far back as the ’70s detailing her life and rise to fame. Plus some of those more personal questions no doubt the tabloids care for, but regular people couldn’t care less about. Finally the Dream Team featurette giving us the history of the show and how it all came together. Overall there’s at least another hour of stuff to get through here, which will no doubt thrill any die hard Celia Cruz fan. It’s a very decent collection of stuff that gives us a lot of info about this very important musical icon.
Celia Cruz’s mark on music will most likely never be forgotten. Bringing Afro-Cuban music to a more refined Western palette, she has cemented herself as a heavy-hitter in the field. The many and varied messages throughout the concert attest to her popularity and influence and the concert here, benefiting the Celia Cruz Foundation, is a wide variety of musical talents.
No fan should be without it.