The “Cubana All Stars”, the most significant Cuban Orchestra to form in the last decade, comprised of an ensemble of 40 of Cuba’s elite recording artists, have just released their debut album “A Dream Come True” through Viva Combo Music.
“A Dream Come True” was recorded in EGREM Studio's 18 Playa in Havana Cuba. For the first time in 50 years, with the support of Musicalia and the Cultural Ministry, Cuban musicians and artists from around the world New York (Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, Justo Betancourt, Xiomara Laugart), Miami (Dennis Savón “Papacho”), México (Rafael Morales “Rafa”), Spain (Juan Munguia-Cubas, Alaín Pérez) and Puerto Rico (Issac Delgado) were authorized to return to Havana Cuba and record with the Cuban virtuosos living in Cuba for this dream Viva Combo Music production. As Grammy award winning artist Eliades Ochoa said “This is a dream come true for all Cubans”, this is “A Dream Come True”.
Recorded entirely in Havana Cuba, History was made! For never before have so many talented Cuban virtuosos united to produce a single project of this magnitude as a single Cuban Orchestra.
The first single release, Prepárate Pa’ Lo Que Traigo, (English translation “Get Ready for what I’m bringing”) was written by Adalberto Álvarez a founder of Son 14 and one of the most influential figures in the history of Cuban Music, arranged by Maestro Joaquin Betancourt-Jackman a prolific Cuban arranger for the last decade, and produced by Richie Viera renowned producer and music historian & biographer and executive producer Ralph Cartagena producer of hits for El Gran Combo De Puerto Rico, Johnny Ventura, Puerto Rico All Stars, and countless others for the past 43 years via Combo Records. Prepárate Pa’ lo Traigo is a masterful battle of words between 3 generations of Cuban musicians and artists “Yo vengo echando candela y tu le temes al fuego (I'm coming with flames and you are afraid of fire) with a contagious chorus “No me vengas con alarde escucha bien lo que digo que todo lo que tu haces hoy, tu lo aprendistes conmigo ” (Don't come to me showing off listen well to what I saying, that all that you do, you learned from me).
Two versions were produced, seven different singers on each version in order to give all artists an opportunity to interpret their inspirations. The first version edited for radio includes renowned singers Issac Delgado, Eliades Ochoa, Paulito FG, Eduardo “Tiburón” Morales, Haila Mompié, Alexander Abréu and Mayito Rivera. Version 2 is sung by Adalberto Álvarez, Laritza Bacallao, Oscar Valdés, Robertón, Tania Pantoja, Vannia Borges and Xiomara Laugart.
Produced by Salsa Son Timba Producciones, the popular Salsa With Sounds of the 70’s series now totals four volumes…
Salsa with Sounds of The 70’s is a selection that seeks to collect some of the great tunes performed by the orchestras of the 70’s. Some guaguancó, boogaloo, mambo, guajiras, pachanga and more from the golden age of salsa in New York, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and other countries, from the perspective of Dj Hecu.
Click on the cover to see the details of each album.
To purchase all, click here.
Wow, this one has been playing non-stop here at elWatusi Central. Looking for some cool new salsa with attitude and lots of soulful groove? Well, folks, here’s a very hip New York salsa-son-charanga band that fits the bill. Very loose, intoxicating jams with flute, trombone and a very deep dish of funk. Some original tracks and some covers of classics like Azucar, Mami Me Gusto and Convergencia. With conguero-singer Hector “Papote” Jimenez (Pablo “Chino” Nuñez, Ralphie Irrizary), violinist and trombonist Eddie Venegas (SonSublime, Alfredo Valdes Jr., Johnny Almendra), flute player and percussionist Itai Kriss, tresero Jacob Plasse, and Eddie Valentin on bongos. Very Highly Recommended.
CRUZ CONTROL This was timbales player Ray Cruz’s 1997 debut album, and it’s an absolute gem. Extended grooves and wonderful vocals by Luisito Ayala and Carlos El Grande mark this a must have. Coro includes Herman Olivera and Luis (Madamo) Diaz. Also with New York legends Louis Bauzó and Lewis Kahn.
A big DJ Alert and Very Highly Recommended. – elW
• Ray Cruz: Leader and timbales
• Louie Bauzo: Bongos and bomba drum
• Tomaso Santiago: Conga and bomba drum
• Bernie Minoso: Bass
• Sergio Rivera: Piano on cuts 1,2,5,6,7, and 8
• Igor Atalita: Piano on cuts 3,4,9, and 10
• David Chamberlain: Trombone and flute
• Lewis Kahn: Trombone and violin
• Bob Suttmann: Trombone and sackbut
• Luisito Ayala: Lead vocals
• Carlos El Grande: Lead vocals
• Herman Olivera: Coro
• Luis (Madamo) Diaz: Coro
• Hector Martignon: Piano on Bolero Medley
Those who long for the days of the “real stuff” will be happy to acquire this album.
Once again I’m taken back to the day when albums had a greater variety of music as this one does. It contains Salsa, Cha-Cha, Bolero, an instrumental Mambo, Latin Jazz and a tinge of Charanga.
In today’s overindulgent atmosphere of romantic themes it is refreshing to see the title Sopa de Bacalao (cod fish soup). It is also heartening to hear musicians taking solos. Remember when that was standard practice?
Timbalero, Ray Cruz is the band’s leader. He was a member of the Mongo Santmaria Orchestra and has performed with Ricardo Rey and many bands in both Latin and Jazz disciplines. Cruz favors updated arrangements from the 50s and 60’s. Their repertoire includes music by Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente, Machito, and other bands from the Palladium era.
Cruz Control’s two trombonists also play flute and violin which projects the Charanga sound that dancing audiences love. The band’s idea is to perform big band tunes with the swing and drive of a conjunto.
Cruz Control was established in 1990. They began playing regularly in Brooklyn at the Time Out Lounge and then began performing weekly for audiences interested in learning to dance Mambo and Cha-cha at a weekly workshop. They began branching out to clubs such as Club Broadway, S.O.B.s, Bayamo and others.I went to Bayamo on two occasions and was surprised at the following this group has. The place was filled and a friend informed me most of the folks there were regulars; many of them having followed the band for years. Hearing them and dancing to their style of music was pure pleasure.
The group is made up of seasoned musicians. Collectively Cruz Control has over 100 years of experience playing Latin music. Many of the musicians have played with the legends.
Lead singer Luisito Ayala has worked with Rafael Cortijo, Joe Cuba, Larry Harlow, Lebron Brothers, Eddie Palmieri, Roberto Roena and Bobby Valentin.
Luis Bauzo on bongos has performed with Mario Bauza’, Machito, Johnny Pacheco, Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie and others.
Lewis Kahn who doubles on trombone and violin currently makes up part of Tito Puente’s orchestra and played with Larry Harlow, Ruben Blades, Fania All Stars and many others.
Bernie Minoso on bass has played with many Jazz greats like Stanley Turrentine, Hilton Ruiz, Chico O’Farrell, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Sergio Rivera on piano is also the group’s arranger. His experience includes time with Rafael Cortijo, Kako y su Estrellas, and Orestes Vilato’.
David Chamberlain, a music teacher who plays trombone and flute has also worked with Rafael Cortijo.
Tomaso Santiago is a young master of the conga.
If your musical taste runs more toward the authentic, check out Cruz Control. And next time you are in New York, look for them.
New York City. ‘Ground Zero’ for the urban hard-core Salsa Dura ’sound.’ While there have been some doubters throughout the land in recent times of that claim’s actual authenticity, here is a production that could have easily been titled “Exhibit A” to prove that point. What we have, instead, is a modern master-piece entitled ‘Ecos Del Barrio.’ The latest offering in a line of high quality musical and lyrical authenticity from LA EXCELENCIA – A group which the Salsa aficionado at large had long been hungry for to come around and permanently establish themselves. With this new production, they’ve accomplished this and then some. Formed on the basis of not just representing a type of sound, but an entire culture, La Excelencia is the voice of the people. The echoes that emanate from the open windows and the concrete landscape of the neighborhood ‘barrios.’ Echoes that bounce off the walls, intertwine and transform into a social message expressed through the explosive percussion of Cofresi, Silva and Dilone; the brassy trumpets of Powell and Hirose; the wailing and dancing trombones of ‘Kaji’ and Ronnie Prokopez; the heavy bass ‘tumbao’ of Bringas; and the intense sweeping of the black and white ivories of the young maestro, Willy Rodriguez.
There are 12 tracks in all, but they are produced as one large continuous flow after the other. No fade outs whatsoever. A process that was done intentionally to create that effect. The opening track are the very ‘Ecos’ that one hears in the air of their local ‘barrio,’but which were, in effect, actually recorded from the same area of the Bronx, N.Y. where ‘La Excelencia’ is spawned from. ‘Ecos’ which then segue to a musical offer or gift to the world at large with the tune “Pa’l Mundo Entero,” featuring the entire band personnel echoing its message on coro. Flowing seamlessly into the next track is an original composition by vocalist Edwin Perez, a true blue authentic Sonero in the sponteneously improvisational sense, who garners his first official song writing credit as a member of ‘La Excelencia’ with “Dale Otra Oportunidad.” The story of a down trodden beaten down soul who has reluctantly received all of the hard knocks which life has to offer, but never a second chance from it, at making something of himself. The use of bata drums by the ‘La Excelencia’ rhythm section is featured prominently. Its actual use in a recording session being a first for this orchestra. “Nueva York Sin Ti” isn’t so much of an ode to an anonymous woman, as it is to the city itself. Where well known historical landmarks and attractions are cited and replete throughout the song. A reality that even Salseros who reside outside of New York will be able to recognize and be familiar with.
The tres guitar, played by invited guest Yuniel Jimenez, makes its debut on a ‘La Excelencia’ recording on a funky guajira entitled “Guerrero.” The title track, which means ‘warrior’ in english, will have the listener punching their fist in the air and crying out ‘revolution,’ as it describes a figure who declares war on the ills of society and swearing to never stop fighting the good fight as long as they exist. Complimenting the tres, along with the orchestra, was the use of an authentic organ (played by Willy Rodriguez). Which, interestingly enough, had to be physically brought into the recording studio and brought with it its own fan for the sole purpose of making the organ functional. True warriors indeed! The band continues to weave stories throughout this non-stop flow of music and brings to life a character that many people around the world are familiar with. The story of “Maria,” a woman who opts for the ‘fast life’ but learns the fateful lesson, far too late, that the straight and narrow path is the one to follow. While violins and other string instruments (as added by synth technology) have been no stranger to Salsa recordings, the use of real strings, as are used on this track, have been quite rarely featured. On “Maria,” they emanate over the track in a sweet and almost haunting fashion. Coupled with solos by Miki Hirose, Johnathan Powell and Tokunori Kajiwara or “Kaji,” on brass, this mixture between strings and horns gives ‘Maria’ an even deeper emotional pathos.
The Afro-Boricua musical tradition is represented next in the form of the ‘Bomba’. Authenticity is a hallmark that ‘La Excelencia’ prides itself on. So it is a no brainer that real authentic puerto rican instruments would be utilized in order to capture a traditional bomba sound on “Entre Espinas.” Featured prominently on a mesmerizing trombone solo is Ron Prokopez. The next track is vintage La Excelencia. Hard core, kick butt, dirty sock Salsa, laced with a social lyrical content. “La Economia” is a reminder why this orchestra is this generation’s un-official CNN. The song’s title, which translates to ‘the economy,’ is a reality that, each and everyday, affects U.S. American lives, or that of any other country with a struggling livelihood amongst its citizenry. The song allows for both of the band’s co-leaders to shine on their respective instruments, featuring timbaleroJulian Silva and Jose Vazquez-Cofresi on tumbadoras. Both solos manage to echo a swinging reminder of that ever honest notion that the rich do seem to always get richer, while the poor continue to play lotto, but never hit. The song writing maturity of one of the band’s composers is evident on Julian Silva’s “Anoche Sone Contigo.” A Salsa power ballad, initially convincing the listener that the subject in question is a living, breathing person, when, in reality, it is about someone who has long passed. A type of twist not found in many of today’s contemporary recordings. From a love song, it then flows into a gritty son montuno entitled “Vagabundo.” An acknowledgment to the ‘invisible’ people of society. You know them well. You’ve seen them before. You have given them loose change that you were able to spare and perhaps something for them to snack on. This is a tribute to those people, who we sometimes tend to forget… are people too.
Moving forward and never forgetting to pay respects to their roots, the following track pays tribute to ‘La Negritud’ found in Latin American culture in the song “Iyanla.” Of Yoruban origin, the word translates to ‘grand mother’ in English. The song revolves around a popular refrain ‘Y Tu Abuela Adonde Esta?’ that touches on race and color in latin america, as well as challenging the listener to acknowledge and embrace the roots of their culture. Featured prominently on a solo is bongoceroCharlie Dilone. The next and final track flows into a free for all ‘Descarga’ or Jam Session that features the entire band, along with invited guest personnel and instruments that one would consider to be unorthodox to a Salsa orchestra. Arranged by trombonist Tokunori Kajiwara, “Descarga La Excelencia (Tsumugi)” showcases all of the usual suspect’s chops, including a really tasty bass solo by Jorge Bringas, additonal improvisation from trombonist Mike Engstrom and trumpeter Dennis Hernandez. But what separates this jam session, from all others, are the addition of Japanese musicians, Yuiko Oyama and Masahiro Nitta, who add their own cultural form of expression by improvising on the Japanese Shamisen string instrument. Creating a fusion of cultural expression in the most improvisational of settings. The term Tsumgi is Japanese for what can only be described as a rough, slubbed silk. Overall, this recording is a true gem and will be the modern ‘classic’ that dancers and aficionados around the world will memorably enjoy over and over.
Considering the band’s humble beginnings, before they became internationally known, when co-leader Jose V. Cofresi and fellow percussionist Charlie Dilone would individually sell copies of their debut CD on a sidewalk on Fordham Road in the Bronx, “Ecos Del Barrio” will show and prove that they’ve certainly come a long way since then.
The Mambo Music label was created with the intention of releasing classic Mambo/Salsa recordings from the past. Many of these recordings have never been released. Some are from little known labels. Some are from ‘live’ performances. In any case, if you love Afro-Cuban music you are sure to enjoy these treasured tracks.
Mambo Music is run by Mr. Bobby Marin, who has, since the mid-sixties, been an active part of the Mambo/Salsa scene. Originally, along with Louie Ramirez, they were pioneers during the Latin Boogaloo era. They composed and arranged music for some of the big names in Latin music. Eventually Bobby sang some of his compositions as well. Along with his vocal group, The Latin Chords, he is featured in albums by Ali Baba, Louie Ramirez, Kako, Sonny Bravo, The Latin Blues Band, Willie Rosario, Tito Puente and others. He created his own record labels in the process including, Salsa Records, El Sonido, Mambo City, Latin Cool and other smaller labels. He worked as label manager for United Artists Latino, Orfeon, Ethnic Tapes (Tico Records), TR Records (Tito Rodriguez). He has produced independently for Fania Records, Musicor Records, CBS/Columbia, among others. Along with brother, producer Richard Marin, they recorded albums for Mercury Records, RCA, and Decca Records. He has co-produced with Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Alegre All-Stars with Al Santiago and Joe Cuba. He produced Ismael Quintana, Jimmy Sabater, Orq. Revolucion ‘70, Joe Bataan, Chucho Avellanet, Nelson Ned, Los Hispanos, Rosita Rodriguez, Charanga America, Willie Torres, Charlie Palmieri, Mike Guagenti, Chuito, Milton Zapata, Ralphie & The Latin Lovers, Dominica y su Conjunto, Azuquita, Hector Rivera, Ricardo Marrero and many, many other recording artists.
In addition to running Mambo Music Records in Miami, Bobby is a consultant for Fania/Codigo Records
53 NEW ABBILONA ALBUMS Abbilona just released a massive wealth of new Lucumí titles, 53 albums in all, that represents the greatest volume of Afro-Cuban Santeria music ever released by any label in recorded history. In high quality mp3/320 format. A collectors must-have. See albums
GRUPO ABBILONA | Abbilona Original Series
Just released, 53 NEW Santeria/Lucumí titles from the acclaimed Cuban Abbilona series. All in quality mp3/320 file format…
Adoración a los Orichas | Aggayu I. Entrañas de la Tierra | Aggayu II. El Sol y el Volcán | Alabar y reconocer a los Orichas | Altar para los Santos | Babalú Aye I. El Milagroso | Babalú Aye II. El Benefactor | Babalú Aye III. El Misericordioso | Bendecir y desear | Bendición de los Santos | Cajón Espiritual I | Changó I. Rey del Fuego | Changó II. Rey del Tambor | Changó III. Rey de la Guerra | Changó IV. Rey de la Religión | Con permiso de los Orichas | Dame la verdad | Eleggua I, guardián de Olofi | Eleggua II, el mensajero | Güiro | Obatala I. Rey de la Tierra | Obatala II. Rey de la Pureza | Obatala III. Dueño de las cabezas | Obonekue | Ochosy el Cazador | Ochun I. Diosa del amor | Ochun II. Dueña de las aguas dulces | Ochun III. Secretaria de Orula | Ochun IV. Diosa de la maternidad | Oggun I. Dios de la Guerra | Oggun II. Dios de los Metales | Orichas fuerza divina | Oya I. Dueña del cementerio | Oya II, señora de los vientos | Oya III, santa guerrera | Reunión de Orichas | Saludando a Los Orichas | Santos que se reciben I | Santos que se reciben II | Santos que se reciben III | Tambor a Chango | Tambor a Eleggua | Tambor a mis santos | Tambor a Obatala | Tambor a Oggun | Tambor a Oya | Tambor a Yemaya | Todo lo saben | Violín a Ochun | Yemaya I. Madre Universal | Yemaya II. Dueña de la Eternidad | Yemaya III. Dueña de la Vida | Yemaya IV. Dueña del Mar
Bloque 53 is part of the new generation of salsa orchestras, and have differentiated themselves as one of the premier dance bands to evolve over the past several years. Fortified with vibes and trombones, the band, led by percussionist Joaquin Arteaga, seamlessly mixes cutting edge salsa dura with the heavy swing of classic roots salsa auténtica. Singers Yadira Ferrer, Damian Alonso “el Bombon” and Freddy Ramos quickly bring their latest production, Tumba Puchunga, to a full sizzling boil. A Big DJ Alert and Very Highly Recommended. - elW
DJ and audiophile alert! Download NOW in HIGHEST QUALITY FLAC file, or our standard high quality mp3/320. You chose! Do it fast, because Bloque 53 is back with a swinging vibes-based salsa project that will seduce you right on to the dancefloor. Get ready to be reminded why you fell in love with salsa in the first place. With this, their third release, Joaquin Arteaga and his crew, all craftsmen of clave, continue to raise the bar for Afro-Antillana dance music. Very Highly Recommended.
“Integrado por musicos de la nueva generación de la salsa de Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, y Catalunya, con una amplia trayectoria musical, Bloque 53 enciende las pistas de baile con un sonido caliente y a su vez mentolado por el timbre del vibrafono. Han tenido un excelente reconocimiento de los críticos mas duros de la salsa en el mundo.”
Te Hace Mover Los Pies (2011)
53 are back with a superb vibes-based dance album that will but the swing back in your salsa.
Something magical happens when salsa dura and the vibraphone engage in musical discourse. Ice melts, clouds part and the soundtrack to a groove-driven life is revealed. The instrument, when handled by someone like Marcel Pascual, makes even the most gritty of urban Latin dance music disarmingly sexy. Like the famous quote from The Godfather, Part III: Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in. And you happily go. That’s because pianist-composer Andrew Cañadell and percussionist Joaquin “Joaco” Arteaga know what works. They had tremendous success with their first album, La Ruta de la Salsa, and, with Te Hace Mover Los Pies, they continue to push the envelope. Take no prisoners: move them to the dancefloor. Here’s a big DJ Alert, and perfect timing for your New Year’s Eve party. – elW
La Ruta De La Salsa (2010)
One of the tastiest salsa releases so far this year comes from Barcelona, Spain. This vibes-based smoker is lead by timbalero-bongocero Joaquin Arteaga who knows how to lay down rich grooves. I’m a sucker for salsa with vibes (Louie Ramirez, Dorance Lorza, Black Sugar Sextette, Grupo Latin Vibe etc.), and, if you are too, this one, folks, is a no-brainer. Check out the tracks “Baila La Negra,” the fiery “Ese Dolar” or the rumba “Barcelona Tiene!!!” deftly handled by vocalist Diana Feria. Most of the tracks were composed by Arteaga, including the gem “Ya Yo No Sufro.” And there is a jazzy dance number, an interpretation of Robert Wright and George Forrest’s “Stranger in Paradise.” All good stuff and… Highly Recommended.
The big band sounds of Machito, José Curbelo, Count Basie, Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez and many others were as natural to New Yorkers as the unrelenting noise of the subway. Nowadays, these sounds are but a distant echo, nothing more than fond memories of a by-gone era for those fortunate enough to have lived it. At the turn of the 1960’s, the New York music scene began to experience drastic changes that within a decade would yield one major casualty, the big band. Because of simple economics, smaller aggregations dominated the club scene as the 70’s came to an end. During the 80’s, the combos multiplied at a rate inversely proportional to the decrease in the number of dance venues. The ensuing conditions generated fierce competition among the smaller groups and practically canceled out anyone’s aspirations of expanding to a larger format. This downsizing trend continued well into the 90’s. Nowadays, it has apparently become the single factor determining who gets the gig for the ever-shrinking number of local dance club owners.
So, what would you think if I told you that there is someone currently in the process of discarding the safety of the small combo for the uncertainty of a big band? In fact, there is already someone who has successfully completed the dreaded transition. He is a well-known New York radio personality, the vocalist and bandleader Ernesto “Chico” Alvarez.
It was just about seven years ago that Chico’s new band, The Palomonte Afro-Cuban Big Band made a much anticipated debut in front of a packed house at New York City’s S.O.B.’s. As Chico confided between sets, his main focus was to provide a scorching full sound for the sole enjoyment of the dancing enthusiast. He was very excited and noticeably committed to making a success of Palomonte and to judge by the reaction of the crowd at S.O.B.’s that night, they were very well on their way to making it happen. On the other hand, if a dance floorfull of twirling couples is the required exhibit, then Palomonte has so far presented enough evidence to prove it has what it takes. In 2005 they headlined at Lincoln Center’s “Midsummer Night’s Swing” series and appeared in a concert setting at NYU’s Skirball Center.
Palomonte’s repertoire includes original tunes and cover versions of recognizable hits of the past updated, in modern arrangements, to reflect today’s popular styles. The group’s sound is undoubtedly that of a big band that includes a five horn brass section, four reeds, piano, bass, drum set and a full Latin percussion detail with Chico on lead vocals – all of it under the masterful musical direction of the highly regarded Colombian pianist Edy Martinez. Call it salsa or són, Chico and his whole crew have well absorbed the Afro-Cuban idioms and have produced an album’s worth of fine dance music that never loses its true essence. Palomonte’s expression is pure Afro-Cuban rhythms delivered in a highly inviting danceable fashion. Add to this a sprinkling of rhythm ‘n’ blues and a couple of jazz standards and you definitely have a winner.
With the release of this album, Chico has finally gotten the sound of his big band captured. The album charts are definitely designed as music for the dancing crowd, but in fact one could also relax and enjoy the music by just listening to it. Yet, make no mistake, Palomonte is a polished big band playing ten swinging themes that pack enough energy for a vigorous workout if one so chooses. In addition, he has included as a bonus tracka selection that he recorded with the popular Afro-American group Slic’d Bred. The icing on the cake is a neverbefore released bolero by the father of modern day salsa, Arsenio Rodriguez.
Finally, it seems the opportunity is here for everyone in New York and elsewhere to experience the fun and excitement of good times gone-by and the pulsating beat of hot Afro-Cuban music and much more. Now, while listening to the album, just imagine what it would be like spending a night dancing to the captivating sounds of Chico Alvarez and The Palomonte Afro-Cuban Big Band!
About ten years ago, a chance encounter between vocalist CHICO ALVAREZ and keyboardist EDY MARTINEZ at Flushing Town Hall produced a great friendship and a mutual admiration between the two artists, and they have been working together ever since. It also led to a wonderful collaboration, the end result being this big band recording which you now hold in your hands.
“Country Roots, Urban Masters” is already being hailed as a masterpiece of Cuban/Jazz Folklore. Veteran sonero/bandleader Chico Alvarez and jazz pianist/arranger Edy Martinez have each reached the pinnacle of their individual careers with this brilliant collection of classics and never before released big band staples. For over 40 years, their unique blend of jazz, blues, pop, Afro-Cuban and Latin American classics have been delighting audiences and winning awards – and never more so than in this program celebrating the two musical genres. Individually, they have been acclaimed internationally for their endeavors within their respective fields, for their swinging grooves and their superb musicality, each displaying a telepathic connection with their audience and with the musical setting. In this, their first collaborative effort, two distinct styles and two very musical minds have come together. This album stands alone and cannot be denied. It is a first in many ways.
In addition, Mr.Alvarez is supported in this project by twenty nine exceptional musicians. Since the inception of his conjunto in 1995, Chico has diligently sought out musicians with whom he has had the honor of working with during the whole of his career – a sort of payback – for their collective help in crystallizing his unique sound. He has not forgotten all those who struggled with him during his formative years.
All of this has led to an impressive gathering of talent and a feeling of camaraderie among the players. The result is an explosive symbiosis of Afro-Cuban funk and other Caribbean moods, spiked with a pinch of contemporary jazz and blues. The sophisticated sounds of modern jazz and pop music have not been lost in this production.
You want swing? I’ll give you swing. But first, think of the best salsa you’ve heard lately. Where was it from… New York? Colombia? Cuba? Venezuela? Now let me suggest you take a good, hard, listen to the Santiago All Stars from Chile led by percussionist Jorge “Turco” Hasbun. Their just released Joyas y Rarezas is, without doubt, one of the best salsa autentica releases I have come across lately, and it quickly shot to the top of our short list for Best of 2011. The album is a salsa dancers dream record, packed with rich, spot-on grooves and filled to its core with gritty trombone honey with the help of José Antonio Pino and Raúl Silvestre Olivares. The arrangements make reference to old school classic salsa, and the liners credit influences like Willie Colón, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, and Larry Harlow. But it’s a modern record, and the tracks are brought to their full, sparkling, potential by singer Fabian Rosales and guests. Very special guests. How’s about the great Jimmy Sabater an a supremely smokin’ Bochinchosa – a track that also features the esteemed pianist Ricky Gonzalez!?! How’s about the great Frankie Vazquez on an equally fiery Oye La Noticia? There’s also a terrific Si Me Vas A Abandonar composed, and sung, by Buddy Richard. Baño De Mar a Media Noche, sung by Cecilia Pantonja, is an amazing track that should not be missed. Listen, also, to Jorge Hasbun’s percussive sabor on tracks like Sabor Guaguancó. Lovely. And man, that Forma La Rumba Sonero (Fabian Rosales/Jonathan Rosales) morphs into an iconic combustible descarga that is more than worth the price of this album alone. Yes, it’s that good. But wait, there’s more. Hasbun ends the album with yet another descarga jam, aptly named Descarga Santiago. This jam, with its hooks that conjure the magic of Cachao, Fania and Tico-Alegre All Stars, is pure icing on a devils food cake spiked with rum. Sweet, savory, and intoxicating. That’s how I like it. Don’t sit there, press that button. This is one special record, and …Very Highly Recommended. elW