Twobarbreak, a perennial Youtube favorite poster, has lots of very cool dance clips. Here’s one of my current selections, a gem that features Al & Leon (Al Minns and Leon James), legendary jazz dance duo in the ’30s and ’40s that laid the groundwork for what was to come decades later.
A life in salsa. Ira Goldwasser, aka, Dr. Salsa, has been an ardent salsa missionary for decades, and we are very happy to shine some well deserved light on one of our finest soldiers of mambo. Dr. Salsa and his wife and partner, Harriet Broekman, longtime devotees of Latin music, were even broadcasters of Afro-Cuban music when they had hosted the shows Mambo!, and Dr. Salsa’s Jazz Latino on Netherlands Nationwide FM radio, De Concertzender Nederland. Keep dancing, Ira. We love ya.
Ira Goldwasser, aka Doctor Salsa, at age 13 with his sister Benay, who is 6, at the Nevele Country Club in Ellenville, N.Y. The back of the photo is notated: It's the summer of '52 and we're doing a mambo 'exhibition' during the 'Champagne Hour.' The band is none other that that of maestro Noro Morales!!
The following article, originally appeared in the Dutch arts and entertainment magazine Vpro Gids November 2010, has been translated here to English.
On VPRO TV this weekend special focus on Latin American music. In Vrije GeIuiden (Free Sounds) Ira Goldwasser and Harriett Broekman, alias Dr. and Mrs. Salsa, will be dancing the MAMBO.
lt’s a cosy household in the Goldwasser home in North Bergen, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The whole family dancing to the Jump and Jive of Louis Jordan, the rhumba-mambo~conga of Xavier Cugat, and the roof completely Ievitates when an acquaintance of the family shows up with an authentic Mambo, Abaniquito, Tito Puente‘s first hit kicking off the Mambo craze in New York City. It’s Latin all throughout the USA. Europe has been cut-off as a musical-cultural source in the aftermath of the Second World War, and North American ears are turned to South America …Brazil, the Caribbean and Cuba. lt’s the dawn of the Mambo Craze, everyone doin’ and recording the Mambo… Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como and hundreds of African American groups. A Hit-Machine cranked-up by it‘s infectious syncopated rhythm, created by contrabassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez and tresero Arsenio Rodriguez in Cuba and popularized by Cuban pianist and orchestra leader Perez Prado, King of the Mambo. It is in New York City that the mambo was elevated to a higher level in the I950’s by the orchestras of “The Big Three”: Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez.
Ira Goldwasser: “Prado had taken off the sharp edges so that everyone was capable of dancing to the mambo. For American feel/feet the accent was placed on the first beats of the measure; dancing on the two, the off-beat, from which the mambo derives it’s special driving character, was for most, harder. On two was for the insiders in New York. They crowded together downtown, Times Square, on the comer of 53rd. and Broadway, in the PaIIadium Ballroom (1946-1966), Home of the Mambo. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, African Americans, Jews, and Italians danced their socks off to the incendiary live sounds and transposed the ballroom into the first non-segregated hot spot in America. Black and white went at it together, ‘cause this music was something else! You went out to the Palladium well dressed… form-fitting suits and dresses, delicate shoes and your best fragrance. The famous were there: Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich, Sammy Davis Jr. And the jazz-cats: Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Charlie Parker — who were blowing bebop just around the corner in Bop City and Birdland.”
Pain and ecstasy. Goldwasser: “Bebop musicians loved to play along in the mambo big bands. That made the mambo jazzy, gave it that New York attitude. On the dance floor one could speak of a friendly competition. From the start it was clear who had the best moves, the most innovative improvisations. I wasn’t a top dancer, but in my own way incorporated the Dunham technique, modern dance with Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian influences. I was only 12 years old and wasn’t allowed to be there at all. But I made sure I looked older and was skillfully maneuvered upstairs into the ballroom in the shade of the illustrious show dancers Augie and Margo (Rodriguez) and Cuban Pete (Pedro Aguilar) and Millie (Donay). It was their ballet-referenced elegance that set them apart from the rest.
ln 1950 my mother had enrolled me in the Katherine Dunham School of Dance in the former Schubert Theatre rehearsal studios. There one learned the essence of Afro dance: to blend physically with the beat of the drum. The playing was live, just drummers. Every week different drummers would summon up the rhythms of Cuba and Haiti for an hour and a quarter without stopping, and we kept dancing. Caribbean slaves from the Central African Kongo-nation called up to their gods. And let me tell you, do they have gods: the ancient Greeks are scant in comparison, There is always one who can make you better.”
Goldwasser is one to know. The largest part of his life he has worked as a psychiatrist. Medical studies brought him to Amsterdam in 1960, where he met his partner Harriett Broekman: “When lra and I danced together for the first time we did the cha cha chá and l could pull it off well. I think that even if l had stood on my head with wooden shoes on, he would have liked me too. We‘ve been dancing together now for half a century and then you learn quite a bit.”
Foot work While in New York City Salsa became the new marketing term for Afro Cuban dance music. In our country there was not much going on. There was Max Woiski Sr. (BB met R) and Max Woiski Jr, who performed in his club La Tropicana with a Surinam-Dutch band,” Broekman remembers. “But you were not permitted to dance. People were driven to jump up but they were immediately shoved back into their chairs. ln 1976, we heard of the band Salsa de Amsterdam. We helped them along. But the promotion did not go smoothly, as we constantly had to explain what Salsa was. And then there was Iboya, the place that transported the style of the Palladium days to Amsterdam. Here, the Latin bands played. It was remarkable how high the level of performance could be here, as long as there was a steady place to perform. The scene blossomed in front of our eyes: Antillians, Surinamese and Dutch people together making the style on the dance floor enormously animated.”
The live music on stages such as lboya and De Kroeg, making Amsterdam the Salsa center of Europe for a while, has now given up it‘s place to djs and dance schools. Salsa and Latin dance have been standardized and the dancers often think more about their practiced stylized steps and combinations then the feeling and improvising to the tumbao (basic beat). Dance tighter and don’t take up half the dance floor,” Broekrnan remarks. “it‘s about the foot work and for that, one doesn’t need more than one square meter.”
In New York City, as well, there are noticeably less spots to dance to live music, but they have not disappeared at all,” Dr. and Mrs. Salsa discover yearly. “ln small side streets in East Harlem there are happening clubs with so many musicians that there‘s little room left over to dance. First, there are 4 singers and behind them 5 trombonists, more musicians join in …thats the real Salsa stuff, then you’ve got mambo! Mambo is a happening, a magical moment, an audiotopia.
Brooklyn-born Ricardo Maldonado Morales, better known as Ricardo or Richie Ray, teamed up with Puerto Rican-born Roberto Cruz Felicano (Bobby Cruz), seven years his senior, in 1963. After initially recording with vocalist and composer Bobby for Seeco Records, the multi-talented and inventive Ray made five albums for Fonseca Records in the mid-’60s that include some of the duos very finest work, followed by a string of albums for Alegre and United Artists between 1966 and 1971. Then in 1971, Richie and Bobby had the distinction of releasing the first ever album, El Bestial Sonido de Ricardo Ray Y Bobby Cruz, on the Vaya label, a subsidiary of Fania Records. Richie and Bobby became evangelical Christians in the mid-’70s, and in addition to making specifically religious recordings, the twosome proselytized through their "regular" salsa albums. They released a further 15 albums on Vaya between 1971 and 1987, which, though variable in quality, were relieved by occasional moments of brilliance. In 2003 the duo celebrated their 40th anniversary with concerts in Puerto Rico, recordings of which were included in a 3-CD set issued by Combo Records the following year. – John Child
(Left to right: Ray Barretto, Ray Mantilla, Lou Pérez)
New York’s charanga heyday (dominated by the pachanga dance craze) began in 1960, driven by the flute and violins-led charanga bands of Charlie Palmieri, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Pupi Legarreta and José Fajardo, among others. Another important name to emerge during this period was flautist, composer, arranger and producer Lou Pérez (1928-2005), who had two best-selling charanga albums on Ajay: Para La Fiesta Voy (1961) and the significant African hit Bon Bon de Chocolate!. After the charanga / pachanga fad began to wane in 1964, he continued to record for the Sabena, Columbia, Zartos, Parnaso, Seeco and All-Art labels. The ’70s began with charanga in the doldrums. Then the tremendous success of Larry Harlow’s album Salsa (Fania, 1974), which injected charanga elements into his trumpets and trombones sound on a couple of tracks, helped rekindle interest in the style. A charanga explosion occurred within salsa during the second half of the ’70s as an alternative to the brass-led sounds; veterans reemerged and new bands were formed. Meanwhile, in 1975 Jerry Masucci purchased Tico Records, along with the Alegre and Mardi Gras labels, from Morris Levy (1927-1990). Lou was signed to make two charanga albums for the Fania controlled Tico label. Tico-Alegre’s new A&R man Louie Ramírez produced the first: Our Heritage – Nuestra Herencia (1976). The rhythm section included the heavyweights Israel "Cachao" López (1918-2008) on bass, conguero Ray Mantilla and pianist Edy Martínez and the violin section includes Eddie Drennon. Lou is credited with discovering the gifted African-American violinist in Washington DC in the early ’60s and persuading him to relocate to New York. Lou died from injuries sustained in a car accident in New York City on May 27th, 2005. Seventy seven years old at the time of his death, he is best know for his composition "De Todo Un Poco", which was used in the movie Dirty Dancing and came originally from his 1977 Tico follow-up De Todo Un Poco / A Little Bit Of Everything. His only known album after the Tico recordings was Lou Pérez Live! Au Palladium, New York (1979) for the Ivory Coast-based Sacodis label. – John Child
Hola Salseros. I am very happy to have the opportunity to present a second playlist for elWatusi. This playlist reflects a little bit of the musical evolution which I have undergone the last months. Salsa with electric guitar, solos of bongos or super soneos! But I have always been loyal to my style of Salsa Dura, Classic Salsa and Salsa of the 60’s and 70’s. I present to you a musical selection of 40 tracks which you can find in the repertoire of elWatusi. I know these songs because I listened and danced to them, but these are not songs everybody knows and this is exactly the intention of this playlist; to amplify salsa and not only present what you already know. I really hope you like it …and be prepared: I have a lot of plans for this year! Que Viva La Salsa Dura – Dj David Munoz
I was born in Mexico City in 1977 and I have been collecting salsa music for about 18 years. I love classic salsa from the 60s and 70s, romantic salsa from the ’80s and ’90s and, of course, also modern salsa, for example La Excelencia, Spanish Harlem Orchestra and La Sucursal S.A., to name but a few. In Mexico, I danced in shows with well-known dancing groups (De Dónde Nace El Rítmo, Salsa Caliente) and I gave salsa lessons in different places, for example at the national university Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where I followed my studies of economics. Since 2003, I have lived in Munich, Germany and step by step, investing a lot of energy, work and passion, I slowly paved my way to become a salsa DJ.
Today, I’m a full-time DJ and I work 3 times a week in Munich, 2 times a month in Nurnberg (Germany) and 2 times a month in Innsbruck (Austria). I’m the official DJ of the Austrian Salsa Congress (www.SalsaCongress.at) and I was invited several times to events, congresses and festivals to Berlin, Augsburg (Germany), Darmstadt (Germany) and, of course, Munich as well as to Bologna and Milan in Italy.
I also organize 2 salsa events in Munich once a month, Latinosphär DeLuxe and Palladium Night (www.Palladium-Night.de), and I created a web-page (www.LaMamboteca.de) where I publish 25 salsa songs every month describing the music, history and biography of a selected “Artist of the Month” to familiarize my friends and all the passionate lovers of salsa music.
Orchestra Dicupé was founded in Brooklyn by the trumpet playing brothers Froilán "Freddy" Dicupé and Edil Alfonso Dicupé, born 10 years apart in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The band made just two albums for Fania, Orchestra Dicupé (1972) and Aquí Llegamos (1974), both produced by Larry Harlow. Pianist Luis Esquilin Jr. wrote all the songs and arrangements for the first album and is regarded as having made a significant contribution to the group’s sound. Lead vocalist on five tracks, including the hit "Me Voy Para Siempre", was Frank Javier Vélez. Johnny Vázquez, who sang lead vocals on the remaining four cuts, was chosen by Larry to sing on the 1972 debut album by his younger brother, Andy Harlow. Making his recording debut on Orchestra Dicupé was timbalero Johnny Almendra, who went on to work with Conjunto Melao, Charanga 76, Tambó, Orquesta Novel, Orquesta Broadway, Típica Ideal, Willie Colón and Rubén Blades, Mongo Santamaría and Hector Lavoe, among others, and lead Los Jóvenes Del Barrio. After Esquilin left Orchestra Dicupé, Markolino Dimond was the longest-term replacement before Eddie Lebrón filled the piano chair. Lebrón not only played on the band’s follow-up Aquí Llegamos, but also wrote all the charts. Orchestra Dicupé’s popularity faded after 1975 and they became less active. In 2002, percussionist Luis Dicupé, son of the late Freddy Dicupé, organized Dicupé II who had some modest success with the single "Quiero Dormir Cansado". Bongocero and composer Mario Librán provided a point of continuity between the original Orchestra Dicupé and Dicupé II. – John Child
Like his older brother, Larry Harlow, reeds and vibes player, composer and arranger Andy grew-up in a mixed Jewish and Puerto Rican neighbourhood of New York. Larry produced Andy’s four albums on the Fania stable mate Vaya Records between 1972 and 1976: Sorpresa La Flauta, La MúsicaBrava, El Campesino and Latin Fever. The first garnered a gold disc and spawned "La Lotería", the company’s biggest selling 45 rpm to date. Larry recommended that Andy adopt a trombanga sound for the album and eschew his main instrument, the sax, to play flute in the band’s two ‘bones and flute frontline. Larry selected Johnny Vázquez as Andy’s lead vocalist; he had produced Orchestra Dicupé’s inaugural album for Fania in 1972 and liked the way Johnny sang with the band. Having made a name for himself, Johnny departed after Andy’s less commercially successful follow-up La Música Brava (1974) to fulfill his ambition of returning to live in Puerto Rico, where he replaced Frankie Hernández in Bobby Valentín’s band. He debuted on Bobby’s Afuera (Bronco, 1976) and remained with the bandleader until his retirement in circa 2001. Andy’s Vaya finale, 1976’s Latin Fever, is an intriguing hotchpotch of styles. The unquestionable highlight is the guaguancó "Las Mujeres" and its piano solo from the track’s arranger Mark "Markolino" Dimond, playing his last recording date of the 1970s. Andy relocated from New York to join the Miami salsa scene in 1977. There he made Salsa Brothers / The Miami Sessions (Songo Records, 1988), which turned out to be Dimond’s final recording. - John Child
elWatusi recently caught up with busy Seattle-based musician and label owner Steve Guasch, who was kind enough to sit for an impromptu interview. Steve’s label, Salsaneo, has been an elWatusi favorite since its inception. The label focuses on high calibur salsa, mostly from Venezuela, and includes bands such as Sabadonga, La Negramenta, Julito Fernandez, and Steve’s own Nueva Era. Steve talks about why he started the label, and what we have to look forward to…
Steve, where are you from and what kind of music has influenced you?
I was raised in Santa Juanita in Bayamon, PR, since I was 4 years old, but I was born in New York’s Lower East Side of Manhattan. The music that I first heard were the LP’s from my father: the Early Fania recordings, Barreto, Harlow, Bobby Rodriguez, Machito, Libre, Charlie and Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Blades and Willie Colón, Alegre All Stars, …I can go on forever. But when it came down to singers, Lalo Rodriguez’ El Niño el hombre El Sonador el Loco LP was the single moment that mezmerized me: everything he recorded prior to his romantic era was superb. I knew then that I had to make music that meant and said something meaningful. Also the great Tite Curet Alonzo’s compositions are amazing and were, and still are, a great inspiration.
How would you describe the musical sensibility of Salsaneo, if there is one?
Salsaneo Records is looking to find artists that want to create music that doesn’t follow the same formulaic concepts, same linear arrangements, we love salsa gorda and thats what we are looking for. However this doesn’t mean that we are not going to release salsa romantica. The arrangement need to be good quality, as well as the singers. There is room for all genres. Latin Jazz will also be represented.
Why did you start Salsaneo Records? Did you think that a certain market was not being addressed?
I started the label to distribute my own album Siguiendo La Tradicion back in 2006, because of my frustration trying to find a label, and to handle the distribution of my own work. But, as a salsa fan, I’m always out there trying to find the next salsa gorda album out of Venezuela, as I always liked their sound and their soneros. There were very few albums coming out and lots of music was, and still is being, recorded and not released because of the lack of labels that would take a chance on an unproven and not internationally known artist. The fact that we are working with Venezuelan artists doesn’t mean that it is only country we want to work with. We are open to any artist that is creating quality salsa, no matter what country they are from.
How do you discover the music you released on Salsaneo? Do you travel to Venezuela often?
Thanks to Francisco Requeña in Venezuela, who is my partner and the owner of Estudios Requeña. His studio is responsible for recording and mixing the three albums from the Venezuelan group Bailatino, Joel Uriola Desde el Principio, Cheo Navarro’s Tributo al Ayer, Soneros de la Calle, Gonzalo y Los Principes de la Salsa, Oquesta Sabadonga and La Negramenta, just to mention the most recent.
Requena is the filter of talent, as he operates his recording studio he comes across a lot of talented singers and groups and sends me their demos for my consideration. If we both like it, we either produce their album or simply distribute them through our digital and physical licensing agreements. I was in Venezuela last February and in October. Our intention is to at be able to visit Venezuela at least 3 times per year.
You are a musician yourself. Does that make it easier or more difficult to manage a label? What are some of the difficulties you face on a continuing basis?
I think that being a musician it makes it a little harder to filter talent, because as a musician I’m very hard on myself, and now I’m a little hard on the artists that are being considered. We want to produce music that we believe in. It’s not easy to manage and play, but I love doing this and it makes all the difference. I want the world to discover this great music. If we are successful we keep the flow of good music to the world!
Do you recommend this business model?
Yes I recommend it because our business model is in favor of the artist and I think, like us, there will be other labels that will follow in the future. We are entering in licensing agreements that benefit the artists as they remain owners of their work, and we enter in exclusive digital and physical CD’s licensing agreements as well.
How you suppose technology affects a small label?
It affects us in good and bad ways. Obviously technology enables piracy, but I also lets us be known and we can reach places we otherwise would not reach. But our small overhead allows us to continue this quest. I’m doing this for the love of this music, and our goal is to grow and be an option to independent bands to get their music distributed. Hopefully, in the future, people can mention Salsaneo Records as the Salsa label from Seattle, a label that delivers quality salsa.
What can we expect of Salsaneo in the future? And of Steve Guasch?
We hope that Salsaneo Records grows and to be mentioned among one of the best in the world. I’m working on a new album for Orquesta Nueva Era, and it’s schedule to be released in January. This time around I’m doing a salsa project, with no Latin jazz this on this session. I’m trying to do different things as I don’t want to keep doing the same album over an over again. We have invited guest singers from Venezuela as well as our regular singers Joe De Jesus and Eddie Quintero on vocals. After that release we are going to start working on a new release from Guaschara!
Anything else you would like to add?
Salsaneo Records will also be releasing new projects from Oscar y Joan, Steve Guasch y su Nueva Era, a Orquesta Sabadonga follow up album, and much more, so stay tuned. If you would like to submit your demo’s you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Francisco Requeña in Venezuela at email@example.com.
Thank you all that have supported our label, and look forward to more great music from Salsaneo Records.