Live From The Heart Of The City

CIM7018 2005-08-16

Track List

Fair - 6:13
Marcus Garvey - 6:00
Tanguillo De Maria - 4:10
Molino Molero - 5:32
Delali - 7:35
Your Lips - 9:23
Dande - 11:19
Olive Harvest - 4:07
Get Rhythm - 3:45
Bemba Colora - 7:13


Celia Cruz, Ben fold, Burning Spear, Marina Abad, Susana Baca, Kekele, Olu Dara, Simon Shaheen, Quantara, Thomas Mapfumo, Blacks Unlimited, NBRQ.

Now, for the first time ever, music fans across the country can experience, first hand, the joyous sounds created by some of the most diverse artists to have performed at Central Park SummerStage in New York City during its 19 year history.

The album marks the very first mixtape of live SummerStage recordings produced by CityParks Foundation.
Twenty years of joining top artists and audiences has earned SummerStage an
international reputation. There’s poetry in that, for a signature aspect of the series is a border-defying, global sensibility. Reggae from Jamaica. Soukous and mbaqanga from Africa. Bossa-nova, samba and rap from Brazil. French chansons, Italian operettas, British soliloquisms. In its history, SummerStage has presented a total of 1,513 artist performances at 694 events, to more than 2.5 million people in Central Park, which had previously only hosted classical music, opera, and Shakespeare.

The bittersweet centerpiece of this collection is surely Celia Cruz’s Bemba Colora: over-the-top Latin energy spurred by her irrepressible vocals. This 2002 SummerStage concert appearance was to be her last; a year later, a malignancy stole away the Cuban-born “Queen of Salsa.” She was aware of her illness when she free-styled her name into the lyric. Today, the poignancy in her words is all the more: “As I prepare to leave, please, please God, remember my name… and if I die, hell, just bury me right here in Central Park and I want you all here with me. Remember my name, I am Celia Cruz.” (*Spanish to English translation)

The nine remaining tracks from “Central Park SummerStage: Live from the Heart of the City” follow below.

Fair finds pianist/songsmith Ben Folds jamming and harmonizing with the group Guster: a confluence of pop craftsmen all cut from the same tuneful cloth.

Marcus Garvey is a spirited rendition of the roots reggae classic from the ’70s-dub poetry at its most evocative — sung by Burning Spear, a.k.a. Winston Rodney.

Traditional flamenco in modern dress, Tanguillo De Maria delivers a timelessly relevant plea (to open borders) with the multiple guitars, voices and handclaps of Barcelona’s Ojos de Brujo (or Eyes of the Wizard.) Marina Abad sings the soaring lead.

Peru’s Susana Baca leads an ensemble that elevates the traditional song forms of her country with a hip, syncopated sophistication and poignant social commentary, as on Molino Molero (The Crushing Mill).

The gentle push-pull rhythms of the Congo’s Kékélé are fueled by unusual
instrumentation (accordion, saxophone) and impassioned vocals on Delali.

New York’s own master of Southern blues/avant-jazz/Caribbean fusion —
Olu Dara — offers his sweet and funky ode to the ladies: Your Lips. (This version was recorded during his 2004 performance. It is a tune he also performed for a SummerStage crowd back in ’87!)

From both the violin and oud, Galilee-born virtuoso Simon Shaheen is able to summon emotions that span the ages and a sense of Middle Eastern mystery; on Olive Harvest he performs with his group Qantara.

In Zimbabwe they call it “chimurenga”: the hypnotic music based on thumb piano patterns, originally invented by Thomas Mapfumo and his longstanding group the Blacks Unlimited. Dande is a superb example of the style.

NRBQ’s take on Johnny Cash’s rockabilly chestnut Get Rhythm captures the group in full, fun-rocking form — channeling the rambunctious energy of early rock ‘n’ roll with their best known four-man lineup: Terry Adams, Al Anderson, Joe Spampinato and Tom Ardolino.

Ashley Kahn, June 2005