In the 12 years since Compay Segundo, Rubén González and Ibrahim Ferrer came together in Havana at the behest of Ry Cooder to form the core of Buena Vista Social Club, all three old-school Cuban maestros have passed away. Thankfully some of their amazing performances have been preserved, like this triumphant U.S. debut appearance at Carnegie Hall on July 1, 1998, just released as a fabulous two-disc set.
New York's big and boomy bastion of American high culture probably isn't the venue best suited to the intimacy of the Buena Vista members' subtle string-bending and vocal interplay, but Jerry Boys does an exemplary job of capturing the action on an emotionally charged night where spontaneous invention was the rule rather than the exception.
González and Ferrer had been waiting for this moment in the spotlight for some 40 years, and they seized it with the sort of verve their studio recordings only hinted at. Of course, being an audio document, you miss out on the entertaining high-handed flourishes of González at the piano and Bárbarito Torres showboating by playing the laúd behind his back, but it's still a stellar document of a special performance, the likes of which we'll never encounter again.