Latin Beat Columns - June-July 2011 Issue

By Nelson Rodríguez

Latin Beat Columns - Credit...Latin Beat Magazine

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

As long as I can remember, back in my younger years, the summer was the time when certain successful radio tunes became the super hits…We’d be out from school, and our summer vacation was spent listening to radio all day…at the parks, the beaches, at the corner or on the stoops of our house or apartment building. Today things may be different but the hits are still playing, and what is scheduled up to come out during the next six months will make this a memorable year. Latin Beat Magazine will keep you informed, as we have for the past 20 years!

This month we begin with vocalist Willy Torres’ CD Hardcore, featuring his NYC Salsa Project and a special guest trombonist from Chicago, Angel Meléndez. Willy represents the future of Latin music and his spellbinding CD includes the tracks Nuevo Ritmo Omelenkó, Se Formó La Rumba, El Criticón, Juana Peña, and Prepárate (Llegó el Sabor), along with some more commercial tunes that would do extremely well (if given the chance) in commercial radio.

Consider a bassoon player doing Latin jazz: Daniel Smith has done just that on his CD Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz, where he interprets standards by Lee Morgan (Mr. Kenyatta), Mongo Santamaría (Comecandela), Charlie Parker (Yardbird Suite), Dizzy Gillespie (Manteca), Herbie Hancock (Watermelon Man), and Luiz Bonfá (Black Orpheus), resulting in a unique flavor that surprisingly works very well.

The long awaited CD by one of the West Coast’s best bands is now available for the world to enjoy: Lucky Mambo 7 (Angelo Rodríguez, George Balmaseda, Joey de León, Joe Rotondi, René Camacho, Criag Fundiga, Víctor Muñiz) has released Chapter 1, with nine great tracks that are all enormous hits in Los Angeles clubs. The vibes feel (a la Joe Cuba) never gets old and Lucky Mambo 7’s new material has set the pace for others to follow.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, one of the greatest pianists of all times, remains one of today’s living musical icons, after mesmerizing fans worldwide for many years. On his latest recording, Fé (Faith), he delivers a spiritual piano solo session recorded in May 2010.

We were under the impression that we had heard everything ever recorded by master bassist Cachao, but such assumption was erroneous, as demonstrated by the recent release of his final recording: Cachao— The Last Mambo (La Leyenda En Vivo). Due to its historical nature, this 2-CD set is a true gem that must be regarded as a “must-have” by any serious collector. It was recorded live at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Opera House in Miami, Florida, on September 22, 2007. Each CD shows a distinctive side of the great bass player and features contributions by Cándido (who just turned 90), Willy Chirino, Issac Delgado, Orestes Vilató, Jimmy Bosch, Hansel Martínez, Lucrecia, Federico Britos (musical director), Edwin Bonilla, Gerardo Peña, Dave Valentín, Alfredo Valdés Jr., Tata Palau and many more.

Certain recent reissues are bound to delight many Latin music fans. This is particularly true of the reissue of the classic LP Típica 73 Orchestra (1974), featuring such great numbers as Mañoño, Acere Boncó, No Volveré, Tintorera, Aprende, and Descarga 73. Check out the Latin soul tune What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, sung by trumpeter René Lopez and considered as the CD’s hidden gem.

The Vampisoul label has reissued on a single CD two original Cándido LPs (Brujerías de Cándido and Cándido’s Latin McGuffa’s Dust), with the backing of Tito Puente’s orchestra.

Eddie Benítez took the Latin rock world by surprise with his guitar and band (Nébula) in the mid-to-late ‘70s and you can now own the original Benítez & Nébula recordings, Night Life and Essence of Life, both produced by Louie Ramírez, and now reissued within a single CD by Vampisoul. For the recording, the band added Nicky Marrero and Frankie Malabe on percussion, Nancy O’Neil on lead vocals and Rubén Blades on coro (vocal chorus) to give the CD a bigger jolt, and it worked.

The Tampa-based band A&C La Banda was founded by Armando Olivero and Carlo Kural, who join forces with vocalist Luis Angel Pérez to present their CD En Blanco y Negro. This CD has a nice selection of songs that can become radio hits, such as Sí Tú No Estás, Sé Que Eres Mía, Imaginación, Por Amor and Regálame.

The past decade has seen an enormous increase in lady musicians and vocalists that are excelling in the fields of salsa and Latin jazz, but the larger contingent of female talent has come from the Latin jazz world. One such artist is vocalist Jessie Márquez, whose CD All I See Is Sky combines her gracious voice with Brazilian, Cuban and pop flavors. The John Santos Sextet never fails to thrill its fans. The Sextet has released another gem: Filosfia Caribeña, Vol.1, featuring Saúl Sierra, John Calloway, Melecio Magdaluyo, David Flores and Marco Díaz, along with some special guests. What I love about this CD is how Santos combines various U.S. Creole and Afro-Latin influences, demonstrating their historical connection.

A Floridian band that never ceases to impress is the multi-Grammy nominated Tiempo Libre, which now offers its best CD to date, telling the fascinating story of how Tiempo Libre's Cuban-born members used to sneak to the rooftops of their houses in their native island to put up wire antennas in order to catch what little music they could receive from Miami.