When I met Omara Portuondo in NPR's lobby before her Tiny Desk Concert, I couldn't help but think about the fact that she was part of a musical scene in 1950s Cuba that produced a generation of musical innovators and pioneers. I was trying to shake that sense of history you get when you meet someone of advanced age who has accomplished so much in three-quarters of a century in the music business. I wanted to appreciate Portuondo for her here and now.
But my imagination was immediately transported back to Havana in the '50s when she told me she remembered two brothers with the same last name as mine who ran an orchestra that sometimes accompanied her at the Tropicana and other popular nightclubs. So it was with the sense of history, as we strolled into the NPR Music den with her arm wrapped around mine to steady her walk.
Her performance here of two classic boleros was enough to transport us to another time and place. Achingly tender and direct, her Tiny Desk Concert reflects the passion for life she instills in every performance. So sit back and take in a brief but lovely performance by a timeless, ageless wonder.
To watch our most recent Tiny Desk Concert, featuring Laura Veirs, click here.