"Recording this album was like coming home, and I hope to do it again"
Estefan didn't conceive The Standards with AARP, or really anyone, in mind. The idea for the album came two years ago, during a dinner at the home of a University of Miami trustee, where UM dean of music Shelly Berg invited Estefan to sing "Good Morning Heartache" (made famous by Billie Holiday) with him at the piano. Estefan had guested on several standard projects with the likes of Bennett and Placido Domingo and had long toyed with the idea of an album. But performing "Good Morning Heartache," a song she had sung 30 years earlier during her first appearance on "The Tonight Show" was a catalyst.
The timing was right. After a lifetime with Sony, Estefan had branched out on her own in 2011 to record Miss Little Havana, which was eventually distributed by Universal. But Afo Verde, the new head of Sony Music Latin America, was eager to get her back and proposed different concept albums to her. When Estefan mentioned a standards album, Verde jumped at the chance and brought in Masterworks.
"I chose songs that had special meaning and relevance in my own life so that I could dig deep and share the emotions that accompany these songs in my heart and soul," says Estefan, who asked Berg to co-produce the set, recorded primarily live with the musicians in the studio. "Despite the fact that I've journeyed through the different genres of pop, dance, Latin and now jazzy standards, all of these are very much a part of my life and experience because of the circumstances of my life ... So recording this album was like coming home, and I hope to do it again," she says, referring to plans to do a second and third volume.
"We recorded live with Gloria, which was part of the success of the record," says Berg, a jazz pianist who has also worked with a broad range of artists, including Carole King and Kiss. Initial takes were recorded with piano, bass, guitar and drums, with Estefan singing live. "Almost everything she did she sang in those four days," Berg says.
And while there are, of course, numerous versions of standards, Estefan's, Berg says, are true to her sound. "We found a sweet spot where we're not rehashing what's been done."
Although The Standards is out on Masterworks, Sony Music Latin is doing all the marketing for the U.S. Latin market and Latin America, including recent Estefan visits to Brazil and Argentina, where the label is releasing "Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar" and "El Dia Que Me Quieras" as singles, respectively.
Estefan is also part of the Sony Rewards card's "Showstoppers" promotion, which allows Sony card members to use their rewards points to bid on the chance to see Estefan perform The Standards at Royal Albert Hall in London in October, meet her and receive a CD pack.
The London show is one of several one-offs, hand-picked for the unique settings they provide for this particular music. Estefan is also performing at the massive Night of the Proms series in Switzerland, where she'll perform both standards and older hits with symphonic arrangements.
U.S. dates will probably take place in late winter or early spring, says Creative Artists Agency managing partner/music head Rob Light, who has booked Estefan for the last 15 years.
In the meantime, Estefan, who already boasts a repertoire closely associated with key lifetime moments (what party conga line doesn't play "Conga," for example?), has high hopes for The Standards in that department as well.
"I chose songs that are special to me," she says. "'El Dia Que Me Quieras' was our wedding song, and it was the first song we danced to as husband and wife. I got the big honor to write it in English, and it's going to be a killer wedding song. That was my plan."