One of the most talented salsa pianists to have ever recorded was the multi-talented Mark Alexander Dimond, better known as Markolino as he was baptized by his fellow musicians. Salsa music authorities Venezuelan César Miguel Rondon and John Storm Roberts once described Markolino as a virtuoso and one of the finest younger generation pianists in salsa.
Markolino was a natural when it came to music and was mostly self-taught, he had the ability listen to a record once or play a music chart once at rehearsal and he knew the tune forever. As an avid Eddie Palmieri devotee, Markolino had developed his own style that was a cross between typical Cuban and progressive jazz.
In the 60’s Markolino played piano for the band of Willie Colón, who tried hard in those days to capture the magic of Eddie Palmieri’s la Perfecta. The trombone-oriented band of Willie Colón proved to be perfect for Markolino’s style of playing. He also had written songs for Willie Colón’s albums, The Hustler and Guisando (Doing A Job) (on Fania).
Markolino started his own Band named “Conjunto Sabor” in the late 60’s, and in 1971 he made his debut as at he band leader of this outfit with the album entitled Brujería (released on the Vaya Records label, one of the many subsidiaries of Fania Records). Brujería was produced by Harvey Averne, Larry Harlow & Johnny Pacheco and is highly regarded by critics and considered an undisputed classic on all counts.
Markolino had written all the music, lyrics and arrangements for Brujería, and the album was a showcase for his piano playing.
On the album the unique, and soon to become legendary, sonero Angel Canales was introduced to the salsa scene. With this album the couple had created high expectations which, unfortunately, would never be fulfilled as they would never record together again.
After the relase of Brujería Markolino played off and on with Orquesta Dicupé in 1972 and would only record on a few albums for other artists; Ismael Quintana (on Vaya) in 1974, and Héctor Lavoe’s La Voz (on Fania) in 1975. On both these albums Markolino performed astonishing piano solos on tracks like Ismael’s Mi Debilidad and Hector’s Rompe Saragüey.
1975 was the year that Markolino walked away from his Conjunto Sabor. As a teenager Markolino had already developed a drug habit, and while was playing with Willie Colón he already was shooting up heroin. The devastating effect of drug use took a big toll on some of most creative artists of that era and, unfortunately, this would also be the case for Markolino. The drug use began to affect his performances, he had become irresponsible, untrustworthy with money and possessions, and he had begun to show up late or not at all for some shows and rehearsals. Only because of his musical greatness, (Mark is said to have “out-Palmieried” his idol and major influence, Eddie Palmieri), many band leaders still used him and put up with his behavior.
After Mark’s departure, Angel Canales took over Conjunto Sabor, (re-named it, simply, Sabor) and the Album Brujería was reissued in 1977, under the title of Mas Sabor, under Canales name, to cash in on his popularity at the time. Unfortunately, apart from Markolino’s composer credits, this reissue deleted the original personnel credits and liner notes. (in 2006 Brujería was finally re-reissued as a Limited Edition with it’s original title, credits and liners, by Emusica.
After leaving Conjunto Sabor, Markolino went on to record his masterpiece, the album entitled Beethoven’s V. For this album Markolino teamed up with Frankie Dante, who was born on September 15, 1945 in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) as Lenin Francisco Domingo Cerda.
Frankie began his music career in 1968, when he was signed to a recording contract by the Cotique Records producers George Goldner and Stan Lewis. Frankie was a big fan of Fania artist Johnny Pacheco, and also was heavily influenced by the sound of the heavy trombone inspired arrangements of Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta.
Ismael Quintana was Frankie’s favorite sonero, and he tried to imitate Ismael in his way of singing, the dance moves, even the way Ismael played the Maracas. Frankie was not considered a great sonero by many, but he possessed a unique approach with his nasal style of singing and his ability to create interesting and compelling improvisations often mixed with a healthy dose of humor. Dante was one of the most colorful and talented individuals in the music industry and his bohemian behavior endeared him to countless fans that followed his Orchestra Flamboyan whenever they performed.
Along with Ernie Agosto y la Conspiracion and a few other bands, Frankie Dante and The Flamboyan made up the underground New York salsa in the seventies and were considered as rebel spirits in the ‘hood. Visionary of his time, Frankie’s approach to his music can really be appreciated when listening to any of his compositions; songs that tell a story or deliver an important message. An avid protester of war, Frankie used his music for social protest, for example, in the song Paz, which appeared on the album Different Directions in which he criticizes the war in Vietnam and calls for world peace.
Although Beethoven’s V is listed as a Dimond/Dante album, vocalist Chivirico Dávila is being credited on the Album jacket cover as guest singer. Chivirico Dávila (real name Rafael Dávila Rosario), was born on the 2nd of August 1924 in Villa Palmeras, Santurce, Puerto Rico. Chivirico was especially respected as one of the best singers of the Antillean bolero but also was one of the few singers who survived the transition from the era of the mambo to the sound of Salsa from New York.
Chivirico had a beautiful timbre in his voice and could improvise better than most other soneros, and before he was signed to record as a soloist for Cotique Records, he already stood out as a composer and singer with the orchestras of Perez Prado, Tito Puente, Orlando Marin, Richie Ray, Joey Pastrana, Francisco “Kako” Bastar and the Joe ‘El Magnifico’ Cotto Orquesta, to name just a few. Chivirico signed with the Cotique label and recorded a number of excellent albums for this label, including the self titled album Chivirico, which was produced by Johnny Pacheco and arranged by the pianist Jorge Millet in 1973. This album opened up the door for Chivirico being admitted in singing with the Fania All Stars in 1975, the same year of the recording of Beethoven’s V.
Beethoven’s V was produced by Larry Harlow and recorded in two sessions with different musicians, most of them from Harlow’s Orchestra Harlow. In the liner notes of the Fania Codigo release, Aaron Levinson closes with the following words: “It’s a shame that Markolino and Frankie did not make more records, but it also makes albums like Beethoven’s V seem all the more magical because of their rarity. In a style that was dominated by Puerto Ricans and Cubans, this pairing of a Dominican singer and an African American pianist serves as a poignant reminder of the universal and timeless magnetism of salsa music and the dizzying complexity and richness of New York City as an incubator for it’s global flowering.”
Actually we can add another interesting detail here; besides Reinardo Jorge, the whole horn section consist of non-Latino musicians, which serves as another reminder of the diversity that existed in the salsa music scene of that era.
Markolino wrote seven of the album’s jazzy arrangements, the eighth track Yo No Tengo Amigo, was arranged by Marty Sheller. Markolino also composed five of the eight songs, two other tracks Los Rumberos and Yo No Tengo Amigo are Cuban classics (for legal reasons, the names of Cuban composers on salsa albums from the 1970s were not listed and instead always simply given credit to as D.R. – Derechos Reservados, meaning All Rights Reserved). The remaining track, Por Que Adoré, is a composition by the legendary Puerto Rican composer Tite Curet Alonso (it is estimated that Curet, who was largely self-taught, might have written as many as 2,000 songs in a career that spanned nearly 40 years).
Both Frankie Dante and Chivirico take turns as lead vocalist/coristo and are backed by Yayo el Indio, Pete “Conde” Rodriguez and Ismael Quintana, truly a dream team for the call-and-response between the two soneros and the coro. Beethoven’s V brought forward a few tracks that became all time favorites with the hard core dancers: Sabrosón and Los Rumberos (which also later appeared on The legendary Frankie Dante and his Orquesta Flamboyán 1978 compilation album Best Foot Forward, the Tite Curet Alonso composition Por Que Adoré, almost became like an object of cult for Latin music lovers.
The album has the Markolino’s signature piano work all over it; the super talented pianist lays down some driving montunos and shows that he was truly one of the most creative artists of that era when he performs his amazing solos. In spirit of another great bandleader, Tito Rodriguez, Markolino also gives plenty of room to the other musicians to shine with their solos. Besides the great Timbale solos on some of the tracks I personally really like the way timbale players, Nicky Marrero and Mike Collazo, are driving the band while playing cáscara (the Spanish word for “shell” and also is the name of the rhythmic pattern common in salsa music that is played on the sides (shells) of the timbales to keep time. Back in the day, timbale players sometimes played cáscaras the entire length of the song, something that is relatively uncommon nowadays in many salsa bands, mainly due to the influence of Salsa Romantica …when some of the percussion instruments were pushed to the background, the claves being another one of those instruments.
The hight pitch sound of the cáscaras is evident on most tracks on the album and really gives it a nice driving swing that blends perfectly with the rhythm patterns and solos of the conguero and bongocero. The interaction between Markolino and bassist Eddie “Gua Gua” Rivera is just mind-blowing; these two amazing musicians truly complement each other skills on this album. This interaction between the two is especially evident on the title track El Quinto De Beethoven, the ultimate descarga with an incredibly tight horn section and blazing percussion, with Markolino playing the montuno vamp with one hand and soloing with the other. Eddie “Guagua” truly lives up to his name with his bass work that just keeps coming at you like a bus without brakes. All you can do is listen in amazement.
While the coro sings (or is it blares?) Markolino, toca con corazone, I think, in fact, the entire band must have put all of their hearts and souls into this joint! These guys were jammin’ right here! The track is too fast to dance to, so I’m not spinning it in my gigs, but just to listen to it really gives me goose bumps, makes my neck hair stand up straight and gives me ear-gasms! For me this track alone embodies how salsa really should sound, and, no disrespect meant, but this track also proves how incredible bland, shallow, empty, predictable and identical most mainstream salsa songs sound nowadays.
This is essential Salsa History, class is in session; Beethoven’s V
You can download it right here on ElWatusi
Mark Dimond, Piano
Nicky Marrero, Bongos (2,4,5,7)
Pablo “El Indio” Rosario, Bongos (1,3,6,8)
Frank Malabe, Conga
Mike Collazo, Timbales (2,4,5,7)
Nicky Marrero, Timbales (1,3,6,8)
Eddie “Guagua” Rivera, Bass
Lewis Kahn, Trombone
Reinardo Jorge, Trombone (2,4,5,7)
Barry Rogers, Trombone (1,3,6,8)
Randy Brecker, Trumpet (2,4,5,7)
Lou Soloff, Trumpet (1,3,6,8)
Junior Vazquez, Maracas
Yayo el Indio, Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, Ismael Quintana, Coro
Frankie Dante, Lead Vocals
Chivirico Davila, Lead Vocals (1,3,6,8)
02. Los Rumberos
03. Ahora Si
04. El Quinto De Beethoven
06. Yo No Tengo Amigo
08. Por Que Adoré
In 1975 Markolino also recorded the disappointing Rock/R&B project, entitled The Alexander review, which received very poor reviews. After the failure of The Alexander Review, Markolino relocated to Florida and only sessioned on a few albums in 1976; Andy Harlow’s Latin Fever (on Vaya) and on Los Salseros De Acero by Frankie Dante & His Orquesta Flamboyán (on Cotique) before vanishing from the music scene. He resurfaced only briefly, in 1985, to record on Andy and Larry Harlow’s album, Salsa Brothers: The Miami Sessions, which was released in 1988. Unfortunately 6 month after the release of this album Markolino died of causes related to his drug addiction
Markolino Dimond Discography (as solo artist)
Brujería (1971) on Vaya
Beethoven’s V: Markolino Dimond Con Frankie Dante (1975) on Cotique
The Alexander Review (1975) on Vaya
Frankie Dante and Flamboyan recorded a few other albums on Cotique that are still appreciated by listeners, dancers and aficionados of salsa dura all over the world today.
Frankie died in New York at the age of 48 on March 1 1993 after a long bout with cancer.
Frankie Dante Discografia (all albums on the Cotique label):
Los Coquetones Orquesta Flamboyan – (1968)
Different Directions Orquesta Flamboyan (1969)
Se Viste De Gala Frankie Dante Y Su Orquesta (1970)
Orquesta Flamboyan Con Larry Harlow (1972)
Beethoven’s V Markolino Dimond Con Frankie Dante – (1975)
Los Salseros De Acero Frankie Dante & His Orquesta Flamboyán (1976)
Frankie “Be Bop” Dante The Flamboyán All Star Band (1977)
Best Foot Forward Frankie Dante & His Orquesta Flamboyán (1978)
Frankie Dante Y Los Rebeldes (1979)
The popularity of Chivirico Dávila was prolonged until approximately 1977, but unfortunately he got left behind in the international success of the Fania All Stars.
Although Chivirico also recorded with the Alegre All-Stars and Joe Cuba (on the album Pirata de l Mar) in the 70’s, Guarare (Onda Tipica in 1981)) and in the 90’s with the Puerto Rican All-Stars, the last years of his live he made a living working in a factory. Just as the restart of his career as singer was in the making (in 1993 he went on tour to Colombia with Orlando Marin’s four trumpet conjunto), Chivirico died in the Bronx, New York, on October 5, 1994, of a heart attack while watching television.
Chivirico Davila discography as solo artist. (all albums on the Cotique label):
Chivirico… de nuevo (1972)
Vendré por ti (1974)
Desde ayer (1975)
Chivirico para mi gente (1976)
Brillando alegría (1977)
Nuevos conceptos (1978)
Exitos de Chivirico Dávila Con La Orquesta De Joe Cotto on Salsa International
DJ EricB specializes in Old Skool Mambo, Cha-Cha and Guaguanco, and has become been a regular spinning at Salsa/Mambo Socials in the Washington DC Metro area, but also keeps the dance floor hopping at many mainstream Latin venues and Cuban/Timba events.