El Condado De La Salsa y Latin Jazz

2014 Salsa Releases

Por. Nelson Rodríguez

Diciembre del 2014


What can we add to what happens every year in the Salsa record industry that already has not been said. Record sales keep going down and most recordings can only be found through CD Baby, Amazon, I-Tunes or directly from the artist’s website. More than ever fans (or at least the newer generation that’s heavily into social media) today prefer purchasing download singles instead of a full CD. But on the other side most artists are releasing full CD’s and we are seeing more and more artist dropping EP’s (3 to 5 tracks) instead of a full CD in hopes of putting together the finances to complete the project. What this does tell us is that many of these recordings will become a rarity and produced in smaller amounts making them collector’s items. I’m telling you from experience as I look at my own library from only 4 years ago and how many recordings are no longer available. For that reason make it your business to pick up these recordings while they are still available for in many cases these are today’s rare recordings of tomorrow.  

Hard to believe but we are almost at the end of the year 2014 and many new releases continue to arrive from all parts of the world making for another great year in Salsa. In this past year we have had good recordings by Grammy winner Marlow Rosado y La Riquena who always has a surprise for us fans. In “Salsanimal” he features as guests Mayito Rivera, Richie Ray, Herman Olivera, Larry Harlow, Jon Secada, Alex Matos, Checo Acosta and Domingo Quinones (also has a new CD dedicated to romantic salsa). In this production Marlow differs in that 90% of the tracks are his own compositions. Listen to “Como Te Extraño, Nena”, “Quiero Que Me Quieras”, and “Ok, Here Is The Truth” that are destined to be big hits.

At the start of 2014 one of the very first releases was the Puerto Rico All Stars’ “Echando Candela” that came out at the end of 2013. The CD quickly generated two # 1 hits in “Soy Puerto Rico” and “Echando Candela” and the all-stars include Andy Montanez, Luigi Texidor, Papo Lucca, Eddie Montalvo, Tito Allen, Sammy Garcia, Edwin Clemente, Paquito Guzman, Pedro Brull, Herman Olivera, Luisito Carrion, Tommy Villariny, Elias Lopes, Luis Marin, Jerry Medina, Pichie Perez, Darvel Garcia, Yolanda Rivera, Jose Gazmey, Piro Rodriguez, Wichy Camacho, and many more.  I also enjoyed “Tu Dices Que Eres El Bravo” and the two versions of “Usted Abuso” (originally popularized by Celia Cruz & Willie Colon) that have also gotten considerable airplay.

Some great musicians get together to record the Cuban debut Gerardo Contino y Los Habaneros “Somos Latinos” for Salsa fans. A very good debut with the standouts “Venimos Comercial”, “Siempre Latino”, “Se Preguntan”, and “La Chica Red Bull”.

The Pedrito Martinez Group is led by one of the most sought after percussionists in the world Pedro Martinez. This CD is a danceable gem that shines on “Música”,  “La Luna” (with drummer Steve Gadd), “Memorias”, “Travelling Riverside Blues” (with guitarist John Scofield), “Lengua de Obarra” (with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis), and “Los Santos” (with Steve Gadd and Marc Quinones).

Bassist Kenny Quintero y su Orquesta Brava who had one of the best recordings from 2013 titled “Salsa Time” (on my Top 10 of 2013) making Kenny one of the bright new acts of this decade in the Salsa scene. Kenny developed a close bond with timbalero Edgardo Morales, known in close circles as ‘Paleco’, that resulted in the new CD “El Timbalero Del Pueblo- Tributo A Paleco”. This one includes special invited guests like Bobby Cruz, Nino Segarra, Willie Rosario, Lefty Perez, David Pabón, Nacho Sanabría and others and every tune is a sure hit.

While there have been many tributes to the great Hector Lavoe the project by Hector ‘La Llave’ Leguillow & MTG All Stars Singing Van Lester, “Viva El Cantante”, is a well-conceived and produced CD, with strings, that will make an exciting stage production anywhere. Listen to “El Cantante”, “El Sabio”, “La Fama”, “Todo Tiene Su Final”, “Mi Gente”,  “Aléjate”, “Periódico De Ayer” and “Amor De La Calle”.

From Los Angeles comes vocalist Yamila Guerra with her brother’s orchestra, Yamila and Yalil Guerra Orchestra, that presents on the CD, “Orgullo Latino” (from late 2013), an array of rhythms from son, bolero, Salsa, cha cha cha, bossa nova and more. Our picks here are “Amigo” and “Estoy Enamorada De Tí”.

While I’m not sure how new Salsa Romántica acts get their airplay today (due to lack of commercial radio stations giving these young acts a break) I do understand that their love of Salsa and vocal limitations Salsa Sensual is all they can produce. We also have to keep in mind that for many of these acts the artists they look up to come from the 80’s and 90’s and want to be like those artists. Some of these vocalists deserve a chance to shine and can be successful with the proper exposure. If there is only one other limitation to these Salsa Sensual vocalists it’s that all the tracks are about love and women. It is a rarity when a song is of any other topic.

Danny Prez’ debut, “Inicio” is one such artist that can make some waves with the tracks “Mala Memoria”, “Véte Con El”, “Abrazame”, “Desátame El Deseo”, and “Que Necesito Verla”. On the Musiq Salsa label this young man can make some big inroads with this release.

Another good young voice is “Juan Esteban”, who has already generated various songs from this debut starting with “Bum Bum Bum” then “Te Equivocaste”. Also look for additional airplay on “Que Pena” and “Tu Amor Me Tiene Loco”.

Caleño Armando Son Jimenez who started as a percussionist for the bands Los Del Caney, La Gran Banda Caleña, and Tito Cortez, debuted as a solo vocalist in 2007. Today he’s back with his second CD, “Conceptos”. You will enjoy “Pa’ Mi Gente”, “La Humanidad”, “No Lloro Por Llorar”, and “La Salsa No Muere”.

Now if we could only find more commercial radio airplay these young men could really launch their careers.

El Cateto Opuesto’s “Somos Lo Que Hacemos” arrive to us from Spain with an eclectic Spaniard flair on “Ya Llego”,  “Tu Elección”, “El Rey”, “Lo Que No Das Te Lo Quitas” (w/ María Lorea), and “La Sagrada Mañana” (w/Yadira Ferrer). International bands throughout the world are making debuts every day showing the strength that our music has and all the various fusions that young bands like El Cateto Opuesto can create.

One of the top recordings of 2014 is the new and long awaited Herman Olivera CD “La Voz Del Caribe- Hecho En Venezuela” on Salsaneo Records (first of several new releases slated for this year and early 2015 on Salsaneo). Herman shows how you can be hardcore but also romantic with swing and has many hits on this CD that will rule the airwaves through the holidays including the lead single “El Heredero Del Sabor”, “El Vencedor”, “El Mundo Esta Loco”, “Privilegio Y Honor”, “Cuando El Amor Se Acaba” and the Conjunto Libre tribute “Libre Para Siempre”. With this CD Herman re-establishes himself as one of today’s best Top 5 vocalists.

Another Top 10 artist from a few years ago was the debut by the band Grupo Salsafon from France. Now they are back with “A Tite Cantamos -A Tribute to the Music of Tite Curet Alonso (with guest Oscar Hernandez)”. The song selection was a good one: “Anacaona”, “Vale Más Un Guaguancó”, “Piraña”, “De Todas Maneras Rosas”, “Marejada Feliz”, “Plante Bandera”, Como Lo Canto Yo”, and “Con Los Pobres”. My favorite is “El Hijo De Obatalá” with the percussion drum introduction.

I have seen “Marejada Feliz” on XM Sirrius Radio billed as Ismael Rivera & Saxomania when it’s Saxomania with guest vocalist Andy Montanez. When Saxomania recorded this Rivera was long gone and it is one of many gross errors the channel has and takes away from properly crediting. Someone should do a better job there!

Also from France comes another fresh new Salsa act, Mosquito Salsa Band, and their CD “Ya Si Mosquito” with lead vocalists Aude Publes Garcia & Georges Porqueras. The band introduces to us an array of current and future hits in “La Policía”, “Ya Si Mosquito”, “Al Pueblo Negro”, “Que Estas Buscando”, “Todos Los Caminos”, “Cambio La Ley”, “La Inquieta” and “Deja El Toqueteo”.

In the island of Puerto Rico Atabal has been a staple in the folkloric scene and celebrated their 30 years of bringing Plena to the masses with the CD “Ya Son 30”. It is a compilation of some of their best with a few new tracks composed by bandleader Hector Rodriguez’s son Caymmi Rodriguez. Caymmi, who is also the lead vocalist on these new tracks, does a superb job when teamed with Ismael Miranda on “Eso’E”.

Los Hermanos Colón have been a staple of the New York scene for several decades now and are back with “Presentan Sabor Colón” with our picks being “Sabor Colón”, Corazón”, “El Nazareno”, and “Como Veran”. One of the reasons why this band, headed by the brothers Marco, Herman & Freddy, Is a New York favorite is their Salsa In English tracks. Arranger Rene Leyva, one of the best at this, puts his stamp on the Dramatic’s hit “In The Rain”.

Speaking of brothers, Los Hermanos Lebron are also back with “Que Haces Aqui” with our favorite picks being “Complicados”, “Culebra”, “Si Me Permite”, “La Capital Salsera” and “Verdadero Guaguanco”, sung by vocalist Virgilio Hurtado.

One of Puerto Rico’s new icons is vocalist Victoria Sanabria who continues to pump out recordings and has made a name for herself now with a new release, “Trayectoria (En Vivo Desde El Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferre de Santurce, Puerto Rico)” with guests Danny Rivera, Luis “Percio” Ortiz (who has his own new CD out), Tato Diaz and Los Hispanos (my favorite romantic act of the 60’s). The 2-CD set has Salsa, Christmas music, boleros and music from Puerto Rico in what was an incredible live concert recorded back on Saturday, November 17, 2012.

Bolerista Ernesto Oviedo, son of famous pioneer tresero Issac Oviedo, just made his debut with the CD “Siempre Clasico”, under his own name backed by the John Santos Sextet. The CD features Orestes Vilato as guest and all the tunes are traditional classics from the 30’s and well done by Oviedo with a truly enjoyable voice for fans of good music.

Aldo Del Rio, from the Pinar Del Rio province, in Cuba, is a tres player of ‘son’ music that came to the attention of Sunnyside Records in the year 2000 when he was recorded but never released until now. The CD, “El Bardo”, has some superb performances by Aldo Del Rio and his conjunto like “Aurora”, “Congo De Ampanga”, “Deja Que Hablen De Mi”, “El Aguacero”, “Tu Eres Plante Na’Ma”, and “Cayetano Baila Bembe”.

Cuban band Ino & The Cuban Ballroom Orchestra‘s “One Day In Havana” is one of the best recordings today showcasing what true ballroom Cuban Big Bands sounded like in the heydays in Cuba. If you love authentic Cuban music you will enjoy this superb band, led by Ino Alvarez, and the classics “El Jamaiquino”, “Como Fue”, “Longina”, “Perfidia”, and “Sarandonga” with the vocalists Ernesto Bacallao, Orlando Perez, Emilio Moret, Sixto ‘El Indio’ Llorente, Alberto Jose Zerquera and Ino Alvarez himself.

Virginia based Bio Ritmo has been creating a unique sound for over 23 years that started as an experimental percussion ensemble and in the late 2000’s began to record Salsa music that now defines them. They write original music in the classic Salsa style fused with various elements (Jazz heads meet punk rockers= Salsa lovers) that have led them to probably their best recording yet, “Puerta Del Sur”. Listen to the high powered “Picaresca”, “La Via”, “Perdido”, “Le Dicen Dolor” and “Motocilengua”.

Ache Cubano is a fairly new band, based out of Groningen, with the CD “Andar La Habana” and is led by vocalist Ommis Bonet with a style very reminiscent Buena Vista Social Club. Just check out “A Donde Vas”, “El Bacalao”, “El Beso Loco”, and “Andar De La Habana”.

 Spain has given us two awesome bands, both led by percussionist Joaquin Artaega, in Bloque 33 and the trombone 70’s sound outfit Tromboranga, who dropped this year “Salsa Pa’ Rato” with a slew of hits in “Antonio”, “Descarga Con Pachanga”, “No Tengo Pa’Pagar”, “Palo Pa’ La Campana”, and  “Como La Marea”. Just before that they released the vinyl “Solo Para Coleccionistas”, for DJ’s and clubs, that has a few previously released tracks with some new ones only available on the vinyl (also on CD).

Sunlightsquare is a London based band, led by Claudio Passavanti with a hip modern style that sets them apart from all other European and Salsa bands. “King Yoruba”, recorded in Havana & London shines on “La Sociedad”, “Vamonos Pal Monte”, “Afro Boogie Super Hombre”, “La Sandunguita”, “Ochosi” and my favotite Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy”.

We also find in Europe, by means of The Netherlands, one of the top percussionists/ bandleader/producers of the past two decades Gerardo Rosales, originally from Venezuela. What makes Gerardo standout in my mind is that he is one of the best at recording concept CD’s with each recording he does. His latest,“Siguelo”, by Gerardo Rosales & Combo Nacional that came out at the end of 2013. I enjoyed the tunes “Siguelo”, “Popurri De Pachangas”, “Ahi Na’Ma”, “Tu Facebook”, “Colombia Pachanga”, and Johnny Pacheco’s “Dakar Punto Final”.

By now many know of special love for bands from cities/countries not usually known for their Salsa or Latin Jazz. The Latin Heartbeat hails from Connecticut, led by percussionist William Mendoza, that features veteran Julio Salgado on lead vocals. The CD also includes the very popular pianist Damian Curtis, of the Curtis Brothers, who is also joined by his brothers Luqus (Bas) and Zaccai (piano) on the song “Illudere” which is a tribute to the Brothers Palmieri: Charlie & Eddie. Ismael Rivera Jr. is the guest vocalist on the single “Esa Lengua Venenosa”. We also truly enjoyed “El Corillo”, “El Regreso”, “Cuantas Veces”, “Latinos Ni De Aqui, NI De Alla”, Contesta El Telefono Carlito” and “Tiempo Pasado”. Vocalist Julio Salgado has been getting better and better each time we hear him.

Barrio Latino, from Budapest, Hungry, was founded in 2008 by trumpeter/ arranger/ composer Tomas Bodzsar and has released their debut “Hungria” after a series of singles that include vocalist Leo Wilber and guest Danny Lozada. The sound is Timba and Jazz Son and we enjoyed “Nadie Te Da Nada”, “Bailando Todo Pasa”, “Sanguijuela”, “Timbailando”, “Tranquilo”, and “El Cachumba”.

One of Salsa’s best vocalists who left us too early was ex-Los Van Van vocalist Israel ‘Kantor’ Sardinas when he came to US. In 1984 he recorded an LP, “Israel Y La Verdad” that is now available on CD for the first time. Re-titled “Un Cubano En Nueva York (The 1984 NY Sessions)” is a must have. The stars included in this CD that accompany the great vocalist Kantor reads like a who’s who: Barry Rogers, Karen Joseph, Pupi Legarretta, Mario Rivera, Jorge Dalto, Larry Harlow, Justo Betancourt, Frankie Malabe, Lewis Kahn, Sal Cuevas and more.

I have always loved the music scene in the Bay Area and North West influence (primarily Seattle). In recent years they have picked it up and are a stronger force than most of the US.  Those two markets (San Francisco & Seattle) have been definitely stronger than Chicago, Texas and Florida as far as recordings being released both in Salsa and Latin Jazz. 

One band that highly impressed me a few years ago was trombonist Jamie Dubberly & Orquesta Dharma’s debut “Road Warrior”. Since then Jamie has been touring with Grammy winners The Pacific Mambo Orchestra and Orquesta Dharma are back with “La Clave Del Gumbo”. The CD is a danceable Salsa & Latin Jazz CD highlighting the bands skills in both genres that arose from a concert where the band heard a student New Orleans style brass band that also played that evening. The CD starts with an interesting Dubberly arrangement of Willie Colon’s “Jazzy” and excels on the tracks “Mambo Pacific”, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing”, “La Escencia del Guaguancó” (with Willy Torres), and “Sonando” (that reminded me of Ray Barretto’s  “Cocinando Suave”). Good candidate for Top 10 of the year!

The Bay Area has had a vibrant Salsa & Latin Jazz music scene for many decades and in the most recent installment of “Salsa En La Bahia, Vol.2- Hoy Y Ayer” they continue to showcase some of the acts and music from the late 80’s through 1999 and from 2010 to 2013. The early local legends include Los Kimbos 90 (with Orestes Vilato) never previously released, Pete Escovedo, Orquesta Batachanga, and the reknown Carlos Federico-Smart. While the contemporary artists include producer Wayne Wallace & his Latin Jazz Quintet, Kat Parra, the band Tanaora, Roger Glenn (also never released), La Mixta Criolla, Rico Pabon, Bobi Cespedes, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra and the all-star ensemble Estrellas De La Bahía, led by Wallace and vocalist Edgardo Cambon. A must for all the new and rare material on the CD and an overall look at the best the Bay Area has to offer.

Also from the Bay Area comes eight time Grammy nominee Michael Spiro who leads the band “Ritmos Unidos”. Here you have a tasteful mix of trombone, steel pans, marimba and more with a fusion of Cuba’s sacred rituals meeting the carnival grooves of Trinidad & Tobago. Check out the tracks “Ritmos Unidos”, “Road Song”, “Pan Rising” and “Chaweleke” (the middle part of Ochun Suite).

One of the Easy Coast’s young powerful voices is that of Luisito Rosario who has proven time after time that he’s just getting better. His latest, “Vengo A Mi Modo” has proven hits in “Vengo A Mi Modo”, “Escúchame”, “Princesa”, “Mi Prueba De Amor”, “Son Que Son” that features Croma Latina from Italy (they have new music out).

The Panamanian band, La Kshamba, led by the Cruz brothers, made their debut a few years ago and have one of those rare CD’s I mentioned earlier in my article that is not easy to find. On this CD which hints more towards Salsa Romántica we can see the songs “A Que No Le Cuenta”, “Ya Yo Llegué”, “Propiedad Privada” and “Aquí Estoy Yo” with guest Wichy Camacho.

Back in 2002, in Miami, keyboardist Steve Roitstein and vocalist Leslie Cartaya formed the Afro-Cuban Funk group Palo making their recording debut in 2009 with the CD, “This Is Afro-Cuban Funk”, with Ed Calle on tenor sax. I loved “La Habana Buena” & “Camina Con Los Codos” but fans will also enjoy the funkiness of “Lengua Larga”, “Oro”, “Tabaco y Ron Pa’ Mi Santo”, and “Pa’ Chango”. To commemorate their 10th year Palo recorded a live concert that generated “Dale Palo” and the live version of “Camina Con Los Codos”.

One of the best CD’s of the year comes from Mario Ortiz Jr. and his tribute to his dad as the Mario Ortiz All Star Band. “50 Aniversario” covers the different eras of Mario’s life with an array of stars starting with Gilberto Santa Rosa on the hit “Vamos” along with  performances by Victor Manuelle, Cheo Feliciano, Tony Vega, Tito Rojas, Ismael Miranda, Giovanni Hidalgo, Andy Montanez, Ray De La Paz, Elias Lopes, Andy Guzman, Rey Ruiz and Jose Alberto ‘El Canario’. This one has one hit after another in “Vamos”, “A Fuego Lento”, “Carioca”, “Cool Heat”, “Negra Quiereme”, “Los Soneros”, and “Arrollando El Sabor”.

One of the West Coast icons of Cuban descent is Jose ‘Perico’ Hernández who has been delighting fans with his music for many years and in recent years has produced some fantastic CD’s that includes his latest “Rompiendo La Rutina”. DJ’s are all over Pa’ Los Santos Flores”, “Chano Pin Pin”, “Viva El Rey”, “MI Cacharrito”, “La Reina Del Carnaval”, “ Mujeres Como Tu”, “La Mora”, and “Pilón En El Malecón”.

Anibal D’Gracia Y Batukealo have been known for years for their wonderful plenas with a few Salsa tracks always included in their releases but this time around Anibal D’Gracia presents us with “Salsealo…Pa’l Bailador”. Our picks here are “Se Me Antoja”,  the plena “Yo Me Tomo El Ron”, the meringue “LO Que Son Las Cosas” and “Algo Contigo” with guest vocalist Osvaldo Roman.

Guitarist Jacob Plasse, best known as producer and musician with Los Hacheros in New York, has joined with some old friends to form Peliroja with a new CD, “Injusticia”, recorded live in studio as it was done in the 70’s. It’s a fusion of old sounds that incorporates 70’s funk, Latin and Afrobeat. What I enjoy by such artists as Peliroja is that they record stories and tales about social life compared to the usual love songs. Listen for yourselves to “La Fobia”, “Ingrata Conclusion”, “Bohemio”, “Injusticia”, and “Te Wa’ Tumbar”.

There were many more recordings that did not cross my desk or serviced to me by the artists so I cannot mention them without listening to them which makes this incomplete that is also the issue every reviewer, critic, etc. has in compiling the best of the year or all the releases that come out.


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Herencia Latina



Edición diciembre 2014