Astor Piazzolla

See Django Reinhardt (or, for that matter, Stephane Grappelli). Insert “Astor Piazzolla.”

Astor Piazzolla AllMusic page

Susana Baca

Based on my extensive sample of two (see also: Cesaria Evora), I have determined that the key to being a successful female Afro-Latin singer is a) having a first name that ends in “a”; 2) having a last name that also ends in “a”; and 3) performing barefoot. This one’s for Cedric, whose choice of Susana Baca tickets as a birthday present years ago introduced me to her awesomeness.

Susana Baca AllMusic page

Samba/Bossa Nova

My friends represent two extremes when it comes to appreciation of samba. At one end, Cedric took lessons for many years and even danced in the San Francisco Carnaval parade. At the other, Leigh hates samba to the point that she will run out of the room screaming if she hears “Girl from Ipanema.” (OK, I made that last part up.) I guess we know who gets invited when my future husband and I go to to Rio.

Samba AllMusic page

Bossa Nova AllMusic page

Ruben Blades

I haven’t had a chance to add to my “quite the looker in his younger days” list in a while. Ruben Blades has solved that problem.

Ruben Blades AllMusic page

Milton Nascimento

My friend Richard describes his perfect day as gardening and painting while listening to Milton Nascimento. My perfect day is when I think, “I made it to bedtime and didn’t say one critical or snarky comment to my kids all day.” On balance, I think Richard has it pretty good.

Milton Nascimento AllMusic page

Cesaria Evora

I didn’t know a note of Cesaria Evora’s music before I created this list. But, she is from Cape Verde, and my friend Lisa, who is the queen of awesome—as Richard says, “She puts the T in Trip”—is of Cape Verdean descent, so clearly Cesaria Evora is awesome by association. Plus: performing barefoot.

Cesaria Evora AllMusic page

Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz strikes me as the happiest person ever—kind of the Latina Louis Armstrong. She also strikes me as the real-life inspiration for the Carmen Miranda movie character, except 1) Carmen Miranda is a real person, and 2) her career started a good 20 years before Celia Cruz’s. Facts are no fun.

Celia Cruz AllMusic page