A Rare Celia Cruz Live Recording Is Coming Soon

A Rare Celia Cruz Live Recording Is Coming Soon

South Florida radio personality Albertico Rodríguez was cleaning out his closet last year when he found something unexpected: an audio reel recording of Celia Cruz, from a live show at the now defunct Casanova Club in Miami in 1986 or 1987.

Rodríguez, who emceed many shows in which the legendary Cruz performed, had recorded this particular performance, put it away and forgotten about it. Now, almost 21 years after Cruz’s death, he had an unexpected treasure in his hands: a previously unknown recording of Celia Cruz, an extremely rare commodity in 2024.

Rodríguez immediately took it to Omer Pardillo Cid, the executor and trustee of Cruz’s estate, and Nelson Albareda, the CEO of Loud and Live (and Billboard‘s Latin executive of the year in 2023), which represents the Celia Cruz estate. Albareda purchased a machine to digitize the reel recording, and then, the three men sat down to listen.

“I didn’t cry, but I was clearly excited,” says Albareda, who worked with Cruz as a young assistant when he started in the music business over three decades ago. “Not only was the recording quality great, but it had hits like ‘Quimbara.’” Albareda set to work, restoring and remastering the music, a process that took nearly a year to complete.

Now, on May 24,  that recording will see the light of day as an album titled En Vivo: 100 Años de Azúcar, to be released in digital format, as a standard vinyl and as a limited edition collector’s box set that will also include a coffee table book and exclusive photographs of Cruz. The nine-track album will feature “Químbara,” a signature Cruz song, as the lead single.

Celia Cruz

More importantly, the album will be only the second live recording of the legendary artist released since her death, and it will also mark the beginning of the celebration of the centennial of her birth, which will continue through 2025. As part of the celebration, Cruz’s face will be depicted on a U.S. quarter in August, according to the United States Mint, as part of the American Women Quarters Program.

When Cruz, known as the “Queen of Salsa,” died of cancer at 77 years old in July 16, 2003, she was already an undisputed icon — not only one of the most impactful artists in the history of Latin music, but perhaps the most revered Afro Latina artist of all time. Since her death, Cruz’s legacy has been carefully preserved by Pardillo Cid, her longtime manager, whom she appointed the executor of her estate before her death.

“One of the greatest treasures of my life was to spend so many years next to Celia as her manager, and most important, as her friend,” says Pardillo Cid today. “When she died, I made it a mission to defend the legacy of this unique woman for the rest of my life so her brilliant work wouldn’t be forgotten. This project, the first to commemorate her centennial is another example of Celia’s immortality.”

Beyond it being a rare recording, 100 Años de Azúcar is unique in that it captured Cruz performing at a relatively small venue –- for some 1,000 people — and it captures her interacting with her fans up close and personal.

“Her jokes, her spontaneity is something we don’t usually see in her live recordings,” says Pardillo Cid. “Here, we see the essence of Celia. Plus, there are no other original Celia recordings. Fans are going to hear something different, and that’s why we thought it would be perfect for the centennial.”

100 Años de Azúcar will be released by Loud and Live Studios and distributed by indie distributor InnerCat. The decision to keep things in-house, says Albareda, was very deliberate.

“We felt the project needed white glove treatment and we felt we had the passion to market it that way,” he says, noting that InnerCat also shared their passion for all things Celia. The details abound. The cover of the limited edition box set, for example, features an illustration of Cruz where her Afro hairdo was created from pieces of one of her dresses.

While the actual album will release May 24, Sirius XM’s Caliente channel will exclusively premiere the music beginning Friday May 17. The actual release will be accompanied by a big social and media push that will include Pardillo Cid embarking on a “big publicity tour” and a push on all DSPs.

“This is a passion project, but we do believe it will be economically viable and it will keep Celia’s legacy alive,” says Albareda. “The recording truly conveys and reminds us of the raw energy and power that Celia had on stage. Through this release, we seek to continue to celebrate the power, global influence, and legacy of Celia, and the impact she made through her live performances all throughout the world.”