Latin Beat Columns - December 2010/January 2011 Issue

By Nelson Rodríguez

Latin Beat Columns - Credit...Latin Beat Magazine

"Latin Beat Columns" Credit...Latin Beat Magazine"

We witnessed many changes in the year 2010 as a result of emerging trends in the ever-changing world of Latin dance music. One huge change has been the release of numerous MP3 recordings, now made available to DJs, radio stations, and record pools. A major portion of these releases come from the Venezuelan and Colombian markets, which have enjoyed a dance music boom in the first decade of the 21st Century.

During the year 2010, we noticed that many Latin jazz artists entered the straight-ahead territory, as documented on the recordings of Manuel Valera, Hilario Durán, Luis Bonilla, The Negroni Trio, Alexis Baró, Danilo Pérez, etc. Other great recordings were released by Paul López, Pedro Bermúdez, Poncho Sánchez, Arturo O’Farrill, Mark Weinstein, Arturo Stable, Samuel Torres, Keiko Okamoto, Curtis Brothers Quartet, Escencia, Daniel Amat, Roberto Fonseca, Salsumba Latin Jazz Group, Steve Pouchie, Andy Durán, Scott Martin, Roland Vázquez, Bobby Carcassés, Chris Washburne & the SYOTOS Band, VW Brothers, Craig Russo and Lucas Van Merwijk & The Cubop City Big Band, all of whom are worthy candidates for 2010 awards.

The 2010 salsa scene was weak at the club and concert levels, but the number of record productions was huge (and it is expected to be duplicated in 2011). The label of the year is Steve Guasch’s Salsaneo label, with its new projects from Venezuela (La Negramente, Orquesta SabaDonga, Gonzalo & Los Principes de la Salsa, Julito Fernández).

Other recordings were offered by salsa artists from all parts of the world: Bloque 53, Luis González, Pibo Marquez, Jenny Colón, Orquesta Salsaborysón, Tito Puente Jr., Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro, Santiago All-Stars, Adriel, Dave Santiago & Latin Affair, Joe Canta, Orquesta La Paz, Charanga Cubana, Conjunto Costazul, Susie Hansen, Papo Ortega’s Cubanosón, Issac Delgado, Más Bajo, David Lucca & Salsa Con Jazz, Havana NRG, Victoria Sanabria, Sierra Maestra, La Bola, Contrabando, Dante Vargas & The Cat Band, Orquesta Guayacán, Cachao’s Mambo Orchestra, La India, Gilberto Santa Rosa, El Gran Combo, Fiesta Orchestra, Charanga Moderna, Javier Arroyo & Salsa Night Band, Charlie Sierra & Paso Nivel, Siglo XXI, Octavio Figueroa & Willy Cadenas, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Marco Toro y su Ensemble, and Avance. Some of our 2010 favorites were Salsaborysón, Avance, Dave Santiago, Tito Puente Jr., Dante Vargas, Septeto Nacional, Ignacio Piñeiro, Bloque 53, El Gran Combo, Havana NRG, and Octavio Figueroa & Willy Cadenas.

Luisito Rosario - Credit...Latin Beat Magazine

"Luisito Rosario" Credit...Latin Beat Magazine"

Hot vocalist Luisito Rosario has always performed awesome music, and he is particularly known for his vocal work with Larry Harlow. I regard Rosario as one of the best but most underrated singers of the first decade of the 21st century. He swings, one again, on the CD Casino Rueda, comprised of tunes previously associated with Sin Banderas, Joe Cuba, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Victor Manuelle and Alejandro Sanz.

Latin jazz saxophonist Scott Martin (who spent 13 years as a member of Poncho Sanchez's band) surprised us in 2010 with the Latin jazz release Only Trust Your Heart, featuring Justo Almario. Martin’s most recent recording, titled Dance, is an extension of the Latin/soul/jazz sound that he is known for. This CD includes three tunes once popularized by Celia Cruz and now interpreted by songstress Juliana Muñoz, plus vocalist Derek Bordeaux’s chachachá version of a 1950s North American hit — The Coasters’ Love Potion #9.

Puerto Rican pianist José Negroni has released what I consider the ultimate expression of the jazz trio format: On the Negroni trio CD titled Just Three, with the backing of drummer Nomar Negroni and bassist Marco Panascia, José Negroni demonstrates what a real jazz trio should be about!

Another great Latin jazz release is offered by pianist Daniel Amat, whose sophomore project Bilbao-La Habana y Vuelta, features such legendary guests as Chucho Valdés, Orlando "Maraca" Valle, and Daniel’s own father — Pancho Amat.

Mix Phil Hawkins’ steel pans with jazz sounds inspired by the music of Cuba, Brasil and Trinidad, and you get the new Hawkins CD Sugarcane Suite, endowed with an ensemble that includes sidemen Murray Low, Ray Obiedo, Michael Spiro, Paul and Marc Van Wageningen, and guests Karl Perazzo, Randy Brecker, Orlando Torriente and Edgardo Cambón.

Leticia (Titia Bal) was a member of the all-female Dutch group Perfume de Salsa, back in 1993, and now she returns with a solo CD, Live at The Kromhout, which serves as a wonderful showcase of her percussive talents. Guest vocalist Delia González excels on her version of El Gran Combo’s El Swing.

Back in 2008/2009, I became aware that many record productions lacked the marketing and distribution resources required to push such projects. The same applies to the 2010 recordings issued by Janeen Puente, Frederman Franco, Orquesta De La Luz, Orquesta La Diferente, Irving Manuel, Orquesta Salsaborysón, Rubby Pérez, Sergio Vargas, Orquesta Mazacote (from San Francisco), Mazacote (from Los Angeles), Keiko Okamoto, Santiago All-Stars, Orquesta Palo Mayor, Projecto A, Vashti Sivell, José Alberto (El Canario), Orquesta La Diferente, Joe Canta, Avance and many others, all of whom deserve greater exposure.