Latin Beat Columns - November 2011 Issue

By Nelson Rodríguez

Latin Beat Columns - Credit...Latin Beat Magazine

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

This year we have celebrated a few milestones around the world… Cándido Camero reached the age of 90 years, while Eddie Palmieri celebrated the 50th anniversary of his musical career...

Those who are fully immersed in this industry are witnessing huge wave of Latin releases at such an alarming rate that today's existing airplay would have to be significantly increased to bring this new amount of music to the fans. Commercial radio is absolutely uncooperative and unwilling to provide any exposure to the many new Latin musical acts releasing recordings today. Right here in Southern California, we are blessed with the Cuban sounds of Rumbankete, led by trombonist Denis Jirón, with the vocal talents of two of L.A.'s finest - Gonzalo "Chalo" Chomat and Iris Sandra Cepeda. Rumbankete's first CD, "Que No Pare La Fiesta" is a trombone-laced Cuban fest worthy of national and international airplay.

The same can be said of the CD "Como Yo Quería," a new recording led by the veteran trombonist/composer/vocalist Luis E. Seda Ayala, better known as El Maestro Seda, who was part of La Solución in its initial stages. Nino Segarra reunites with Seda on this CD to sing some salsa tracks that can be compared to the material of his first solo release several decades ago.

"Flor de Vida" (Flower of Life) is the latest production by percussionist William Johnson, in conjunction with two L.A. Cuban friends -percussionist Luis Conte and keyboardist/pianist Alberto Salas. What I loved about this CD is how many of the songs were inspired by biblical passages.

Congratulations to Dave Valentín on his Grammy nominated CD, which highlights his long time pianist Bill O'Connell. O'Connell, by the way, has a new CD ("Triple Play Plus Three") that features Richie Flores, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentín and Paquito D'Rivera (also nominated for three Grammy Awards).

Rubén Paz & Chévere Fusion's CD "Amor Virtual" is very different from most of the other recent recordings, as it offers a fusion of trova, salsa, son cumbia, rock, reggaetón, chachachá, timba, conga, danzón, jazz, etc. Its highlights include a couple Rubén Paz's compositions -particularly the tracks "Son Pa'Haití" and "Lucha".

Europe has offered a wealth of Latin releases during the past decade, and one of my favorite European recording artists has been the British pianist Alex Wilson, whose most recent albums have been characterized by their soulful tinge. Alex always features a soul diva on his recordings, and this time around it's Aquilla Fearon who rocks on "Higher Love", as one of the guests who appear on the CD "Salsa Veritas", recorded in London, Madrid and Paris. It contains three Latin jazz tracks, including the one titled "Clumsy Lover," which features Galician bagpipes played by Wilber Calver, a Cuban-born resident of the Swiss Alps.

From France comes Son Del Salón's sophomore release, "El Hombre Mas Feliz". This sextet was formed in 2009 by vocalist Julio David López Pérez, bassist Ken Chikaoui, conguero Thibaut Chipot, vocalist/tresero Anthony Hocquard, trumpeter Julián Hornberger, and bongocero Herve Jacqmin. All the material was written by members of the band, particularly by Jacqmin and Hocquard.

Another band based in France is Grupo Salsafón, whose original material on the CD "Tribute to the Barrio" is combined with some great covers of Eddie Palmieri's "1983" & "Palo Pa'Rumba", Ray de la Paz's "Salsa Pa'l Bailador", Arsenio Rodríguez's "Pa Huele", Tito Puente's "Cuando Te Vea" and Cándido Fabré's "A La Hora Que Me Llamen Voy". The production is an example of how salsa bands in Europe have evolved over the years to compete in other markets.

Calle Facción is a third act from France that has recorded a self-titled EP with a reggae-salsa-ska flavor. Its single "La Bendición" has been getting worldwide airplay. This septet features Bruno Habas on vocals.

From Berlin, Germany, comes the band Mi Solar, which made its debut in 2008 with "Amistad", and now embraces its audience with a new CD, "Havana Berlin," highlighting the Cuban vocalist Mayelín Guyat, who is also featured as composer, along with trumpeter Jotham Bleiberg and bassist Maike Scheel. The band's interpretation of Cuban rhythms adds a bit of funkiness that dancers will truly enjoy.

Marco Toro y su Ensemble (led by the Venezuelan Marco Toro) has been working in Holland, Amsterdam for many years, and their latest CD, "Activo En La Jugada", delivers some folkloric tracks and jazzy instrumental tracks, but also utilizes the vocal talents of Marcial Istúriz, Javier Plaza, Angel Flores, Gustavo Gerardo, and Nando Vanin. The band offers a version of Conjunto Libre's "Imágenes Latinas" (sung by Vanin) plus a tribute titled "Recordando a Manny Oquendo" that was originally recorded in 1999 and sung by Javier Plaza.

"Miles Español (New Sketches of Spain)", a collaboration of epic proportions between Spanish flamenco legends and U.S. jazz greats, explores the influence of flamenco on Miles Davis' music by recreating tunes drawn from Miles' "Sketches of Spain" and "Kind of Blue". More than 30 musicians got together to reinvent the music of Davis and elaborate their own compositions, including Chick Corea, Jerry González, Luisito Quintero, Edsel Gómez, John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Chano Domínguez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Alex Acuña, Ron Carter, John Benítez, Sammy Figueroa, Eddie Gómez, Antonio Sánchez, and Jorge Pardo, among others. The two-CD set was recorded by an incredible cast, including some former Davis sidemen, and is destined to become a historic collector's item.

When I heard Roberto Quintero had released his debut I knew it would be a superb recording, as he happens to be a well-seasoned veteran who has played with some of today's best Latin jazz and salsa acts. Quintero's debut CD ("Transmission") features such special guests as Dave Samuels, Luis Perdomo, Alfredo Naranjo, Carlos 'Nene' Quintana, Ralph Irizarry, Héctor Martignón, Nelson Jaime (Gazú), and Carlitos Padrón.

Sammy García & El Sabor De Puerto Rico is one of the Borinquen's hottest bands, as proven on the CD "Objetivo", with all the compositions penned by the talented Juan José Hernández Doejo. Props to the two young vocalists, Wilfredo Colón and Joselito Hernández, who will ensure that this band will be around for a very long time.

Pianist Álvaro Cabarcas (better known as Pelusa) leads Pelusa & La Banda Caramba on their solo debut "Escuela de Salsa". This outing should do well with fans of the Grupo Niche sound on commercial radio. John Rivera is the vocal guest on "Oye, Culebra".