El Condado De La Salsa y Latin Jazz - May 2021
By Nelson Rodríguez
Incredible to believe but we are reaching the half-way point of the year and some great recordings have surfaced despite the pandemic and some will go down as historic releases. It has become clear that artists are creating music for the sake of good music compared to recording music for commercial airways. Latin Jazz has already had a big year and Salsa is being produced at another record pace.
Two institutions that were created in 1924 and 1927 are both back with new recordings. The first is the legendary Sonora Matancera that debuted in 1924 as Tuna Liberal, being renamed Sonora Matancera in 1935, with tresero Valentin Cane as leader that also included four other guitarists during that first formation of the band.
This new release, “Para El Mundo Desde Nueva York”, are live recordings with some of the singers that were in New York including ‘The Queen’ Celia Cruz released by Juan Hidalgo & Nelson Esteves (J&N Records). Listening to these classics brought back memories of seeing the band perform in Central Park and out in New Jersey, Songs like “Yerbero Moderno”, “Anacaona”, “El Negrito Del Batey”, “Mala Mujer”, “Besito De Coco”, “Piel Canela”, “Los Aretes De La Luna”, and “Quien Sera” never get old and make this recording a collector’s item.
La Gloria Matancera was also from in Matanzas, Cuba and was founded by the brothers Eliseo, Carlos and Juan Manuel Diaz and like their original recordings this new CD, “Mas Matancera Que Nunca”, is comprised of Son, Boleros, Guarachas and Cha Cha Cha’s that were created in the 50’s.
Envidia’s owner Luis Dominguez is the musical director and featured pianist on several tracks and the standouts include “Mi Rendencion”, “Para Cochero” with a memorable timbal solo by Fabian Sirgado, “La Matancera En El Cerro” with performances by Dominguez, trombonist Ulises Benavides and vocalist Jorge Rodriguez ‘El Gafas’, “Yambu Pa’ Gozar”, “Amor Por Caridad”, and “Dirin Din Din”.
J&N also released an interesting recording comically titled “Latin Jazz For Gringos, Vol.1” (I believe Gringos know more about Latin Jazz than Latinos do) which is a new genre for J&N that back in the 80’s were more into merengue and some Salsa. But Latin Jazz is one of the fastest growing genres today and this compilation has some vintage names along with some new artists that should do well with the exposure.
Giants spearheading this compilation include Eddie Palmieri, Mario Ortiz, Willie Rosario, Johnny Pacheco that are Salseros who would include Latin Jazz in their recordings and the Venezuelans Orlando Poleo, Andy Duran, Alfredo Naranjo and ‘El Pavo” Frank Hernandez.
Chuchito Valdes Jr. represents Cuba in this compilation. The new discoveries include Chiqui Rojas, Martes 8:30 (they have various recordings but many people do not know anything about them), Gustavo Caruci, Felix Rodriguez and vocalist Giselle Brass.
Loved Frank Hernandez’ “Mitch’s Mambo”, Andy Duran’s “Maggie’s Mambo”. Chiqui Rojas’ “Footprints” and “Night In Tunisia”, Eddie Palmeiri’s “Cobarde”, Mario Ortiz’ “Move”, Johnny Pacheco’s “Msmbo Inn”, Orlando Poleo’s “Echando Candela” and Willie Rosario’s “Satin Lace” that all been showcased on my World Salsa radio.com show ‘Jazzeando En El Valle’.
As I mentioned in my opening statement Latin Jazz has had a fabulous year so far with recordings by Papo Vazquez Mighty Pirate Troubadours, Victor Rendon Bronx Conexion Latin Jazz Big Band, Charlie Sepulveda & The Turnaround, and The Echo Park Project Latin Jazz Octet that should make many Top 10 lists. Add to this list Grammy award winner Marlow Rosado Featuring Chucho Valdes & Ed Calle titled “Orun” that is an amazing CD from the first track to the last.
This introduces us to the Latin Jazz side of salsero Marlow Rosado and the man does not disappoint us with excellent interpretations of “Marlow & Chucho”, “Ebo”, “Moments That Matter”, “No One Writes To The Coronel”, “Capullito De Aleli” featuring Ed Calle, “Orun”, “Encerrao” (that has to do with being locked down during the pandemic) and my favorite “Justicia Maestra (Homenaje A Eddie Palmieri)”.
Conjunto Caribeño, from Ponce, Puerto Rico was formed by the brothers Santos ‘Chany’ Rodriguez & Javier Rodriguez, in 2019, when they released their successful debut CD “Original y Sabroso”. Both brothers sang and Chany composed many of the songs as he also did on this new release, “Yo Quiero Ser La Musica”, but without Chany who departed from this world on January 9th, 2021.
Javier now handles the vocals and I can tell you that Chany blessed this recording with his spirit as heard on “Pal Bailador”, “Candela Pa’ Ti”, “El Cuerpo Me Pide Salsa” and “Yo Quiero Ser La Musica” that are all party songs. But the party does not end there with the tracks “Bailalo”, “Cocinando”, “Mulata Sandunguera” and “Mi Son Montuno Llego”.
Tito De Gracia has been one of the finest timbaleros for decades and while he does not record often on his own the production’s he has are classics. Well in 2021 he is back with a Salsa gem that is titled “Asi Soy 100%” and features as his vocalists Puchi Colon, Orlando Watussi,
Venezuela has been a large market for great music since the 60’s and never stopped creating new music and new stars. Vocalist Rafael ‘Pollo’ Brito has been making a name for himself and this time around joins forces with Edwin Pulgar on the EP “El Rey Del Timbal” dedicated to the band Los Blancos on tracks like “DE La Boca Pa Fuera (Esto Es Pa’ Los Bravos)”and “Merecumbe A Los Blanco”. Two of my favorite tracks are the title track “El Rey Del Timbal” and “La Loca”.
What I most like about Brito’s presentations is how he delves into his Venezuelan folkloric roots where he excels.
Another huge name in Colombia over the past decade has been Siguarajazz that shines on everything they do both in Latin Jazz and Salsa. Their last CD’ De Pelicula” was one of last years finest and now they return with the Salsa recording “Salsero 20 Aniversario” commemorating 20 years of excellence. This band, from Medellin, Colombia, led by bassist/vocalist Juan Fernando Garcia is one of my favorites since its inception.
‘Salsero” has the superb voice of Gustavo Gerardo, the trumpet of Felipe Zapata, congas by Camilo Barrera, timbal work by David Rojas and the trombone of Eduard Montoya and is the huge hit here. Huge props to Humberto Arias and his tenor sax on “Descarga Mambo Gorda”, “Camajan” sung by Juan Fernando Garcia and I also enjoyed the funky “Frukus Boogaloo” written by Gustavo Gerado.
Willy Garcia is one of those vocalists that was blessed with a good school starting with La Suprema Corte then Grupo Niche before forming Son De Cali with Javier Vazquez. That school shows on his own recordings including this new one, “El Dia Es Hoy”.
As a producer/composer and vocalist Garcia’s forte is Salsa Romantica and you will not be disappointed with “De Principio A Fin”, “Tu”, “Yo Se”, “Mi Amuleto”, “Las Noches Son Muy Pocas” and his duet with Maia “Aun Existe”.
One of the hottest new recordings is Ruben Blades & Roberto Delgado & his Orchestra that has Salsa, Latin Jazz and Big Band vocal Jazz. “Salswing” will be a Grammy nominee for sure in 2022.
Recently spoke to Joey Cruz, son of famous pianist/arranger for Ray Barretto Louie Cruz and he is working on a project that will include his dad’s songs for an archive he found of about 30 previously unrecorded songs. A few are arrangements given to his dad from Marty Sheller, Charlie Palmieri and Jose Febles. I heard one and this recording will be rocking later this year or in 2022.
Cuban pianist Alejandro Falcon joins in attribute to Los Muñequitos De Matanzas in a great CD “Jazz Con Guaguanco” and bassist Celestino Sanchez who leads CSAN-II is preparing a Latin Jazz recording that already has two fantastic cuts out with the latest “Groovisimo” a definite radio hit.
Tito Puente Jr. is celebrating his dads passing 20 years ago with a new track and recording that is being prepared and we told you about Tito Puente Sr. and the upcoming tribute documentaries and recording that actor Edward James Olmos is involved in.
Composer Eduardo Zayas has enough compositions for another two CD’s in the midst of the current success of “Huerta De Soneros”. The 4th CD with be an all-ladies CD with vocalists from all over the world.
Expect big projects from Don Perignon and vocalist Tito Cruz while the new Buena Vibra Sextet CD is almost ready to drop with some of the slickest vibraphone music in current years on Salsaneo Records.
Boleros are at an upswing with many productions out in the past few years from Cuba, South America (Jose Aguirre y La Cali Big Band with special vocalist guests) and in the United States. Choco Orta’s latest hit was a duet bolero with Victor Manuelle and Jose Alberto ‘El Canario’ has a full project coming out soon.