El Condado De La Salsa y Latin Jazz - October 2021

By Nelson Rodríguez

As the year is quickly coming to an end we look at all the projects that have been released so far and it’s no different than any other year even though there has been a lockout that has kept artists from actually being able to meet and record for about a year. Many recordings were done virtually and sound very good.

This year has blown by us at a rapid pace and as of this writing we have lost eleven musicians many of us knew and loved: Victor Paz, Jimmy Morales, Johnny Pacheco, Tempo Alomar, Larry Harlow, Adalberto Alvarez, Johnny Ventura, Ray Armando, Tommy Villariny, Roberto Roena and Ralph Irizarry with three more not doing that well in the hospital.

Within the next six months we expect new CD’s by Luis Gonzalez ‘El Tsunami De La Salsa’ 50th Anniversary, Little Johnny Rivero, Buena Vibra Sextet, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Richie Vee (Richie Viruet) Ft. Nina Dilet, Dorance Lorza & Sexteto Café’s 20th, Swing Sabroso, Jorge Fadul, Julio Salgado, Orlando Poleo, Tito Cruz (ex- Apollo Sound vocalist), Charlie Donato & Son Ideal, Mario Ortiz Jr., Nestor Pacheco, Jimmy Delgado, Eguie Castrillo, John Jimenez’ New York Salsa All Stars, La Paris All Stars “Los Escogidos, Vol.2”, Eddie Palmieri, Naty Martinez’ 45th Anniversary, Julito Alvarado, Don Perignon y La Puertorriquena, Steve Guasch & O.N.E., Oscar Hernandez & Alma Libre, Jesus Pagan, CSAN-II, Joey Cruz (son of the great arranger Louie Cruz), Eduardo Zayas y EZ La Banda, Edwin Perez, and Orquesta Morel Campos.

Some of the recent releases include one of the hottest CDs of the year “Angel Melendez” by the Angel Melendez Big Band Maquina with the powerful big band sound at its best featuring great piano play by Carlos Garcia, Gilberto ‘El Pulpo’ Colon and on two Latin Jazz tracks Luis Marin “Naima” & “Nuestro Amor”.

The vocalists also do a superb job that includes Rico Walker on “Mi Son” & “El Que No Sufre No Vive”, Herman Olivera on “Xiomara”, & “Porque Me Engañas”, Tito Allen on “Bailen Mi Guaguanco” & “Todos Vuelven”, Willito Otero on “Lo Mas Dificil” and Carlos Garcia on “Vuelve A Mi”.

I love this CD and see it on my Top 10 list of 2021.

Another CD that enters the historic category was a recording done in 1996 for vocalist Van Lester but just released by Cookita Records with the backing of an all -star Hall of Famers ‘who’s who’ of Salsa dura.

“Los Generales De La Salsa” includes Jose Mangual Jr, Lewis Kahn, Leopoldo Pineda, Milton Cardona, Joe ‘Profesor’ Torres, Victor Venegas, Hector “Bomberito’ Zarzuela, Reynaldo Jorge, Nestor Sanchez, Adalberto Santiago, Willie Amadeo, Ite Jerez and Harry Adorno.

The pick hits here are “La Isla De Sabrosura” with the piano solo by “Profesor’ Joe Torres, “Solo Par Usted”, “Para Compartir” and “La Princesa Del Amor”.

Luis Dominguez and his Envidia record label have been very busy during the pandemic with about a dozen recordings that includes the sensational Metropolitan All Stars, comprised of many musicians from other popular bands coming together under this name, that in many recordings includes Luis Dominguez on piano.

Covid 19 & Delta A did not stop these musicians from recording and the decision was made to record an array of covers like Orchestra Harlow’s “La Cartera” with Jorge Rodriguez ‘El Gafas” as vocalist, “Rompe Saraguey” & “Nadie Baila Como Yo” sung by Reineir Proenza ‘El Nene’, “Juan Pachanga” with Barbarito Lopez, and “El Paso De Encarnacion”.

My favorites are “Preguntale A Pucho” with a very tasty piano solo by Luis Dominguez and “Para Vivir”.

One of the hottest soneros of the past five years is Josean Rivera that is back with his fourth release “Esto No Es Secreto” (Salsaneo) which will be on many ‘Top Hit’ lists. By now this singer is no secret and has made himself one of the best who also composes.

Just before going on his solo debut and career he was part of Raphy Leavitt y La Selecta from 1999-2002 in Puerto Rico but did not record with them and was then in the states with Rafi Marrero.

The songs that have been hot on my radio shows are “Esto No Es Secreto”, “Cantante Versatil”, “Cultivando Pa’l Bailador”, “Romantico y Rumbero” and “De Alli Vengo Yo”.

Pete Escovedo is this years ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ winner at the Latin Grammy’s and at the right time releases the award worthy “Rhythm of The Night” as a Latin Soul/Latin Jazz gem.

This combination of Soul & Jazz shines as does vocalist Sy Smith on “Ain’t Nobody” (Chaka Kahn), “I’ll Be Around” & “Until You Come Back to Me” (Aretha Franklin). Debi Nova also excels on the title track “Rhythm of The Night” (Lionel Rictchie) while Sheila E. revise her own hit ‘Glamorous Life” and Peter Michael Escovedo does a fine rendition of the Stevie Wonder super-hit ‘Overjoyed”.

Since the 70’s Pete Escovedo has performed with legends: Herbie Hancock, Dave Valentin, Cal T’Jader, Chick Corea, Woody Herman, Barry White, George Duke, Poncho Sanchez, Mongo Santamaria, Al Jarreau, Prince, Najee, Andy Narrell, Ray Obiedo, Anita Baker, Billy Cobham, Boz Scaggs and Gerald Albright.

Pete has always been around excellent musicians and he surrounded himself with some of today’s finest musicians: Oskar Cartaya, Francisco Torres, Art Velasco, Jonathan Montes and Justo Almario.

My favorite tracks also include Toto’s “Africa” and the Latin Jazz track “Mas Que Nada” with Justo Almario.

Pianist/producer/arranger Henry Benavides, from Colombia, who was Musical Director for trombonist Alberto Barros’ “Tributo a La Salsa Colombiana” makes his debut with the CD “Mi Vida”.

This is pure Salsa Romantica at its best as showcased on “Enamorado”, “Olvidala Corazon”, “La Envidia”, “No Me Mientas”, “Perdoname” and the one ‘Salsa Dura’ titled “La Negra Baila Sabroso”.

Dayramir Gonzalez is one of Cuba’s bright new pianist & composer that recorded in November/December of 2020, in Habana, the CD “Tributo a Juan Formell y Los Van Van”. The CD has some excellent collaborations including percussionist Brenda Navarrete o “Orun a Formell”, laud player Barbarito Torres y su Piquete Cubano on “Todo Se Acabo”, Mayito Rivera on “Marilu” & “Si No Te Quieres Tu”, Mandy Cantero on “Deja La Boberia”, Haila Maria Mompie on “El Guararey De Pastora” and rocker David Blanco on “Anda Ven y Muevete”.

Over-all a great tribute by Gonzalez for one of Cuba’s modern pioneers who has been a great influence to so many musicians all over the world…Juan Formell and hid band Los Van Van.

When it comes to Latin Jazz Venezuela has one of the best in Andy Duran & his Latin Jazz Big Band who in 1993 recorded “A Jazz Latin Beat” that has the hits “Virgen Island Mambo” (Tito Rodriguez) featuring vibist Alfredo Naranjo, Machito’s “Varsity Drag Mambo”, Duke Ellington’s “Take The A Train”, “Maggie’s Mambo” (Rene Hernandez), “El Rey Del Timbal” (Tito Puente), “Al Compas Del Mambo” (Perez Prado) and “Disc Jockey Jump” (Gene Krupa/Gerry Mulligan).

In 1994 Duran comes back with another gem “Latin Jazz Club” recorded live at The Auditorium Emil Friedman in Caracas with the songs I truly enjoyed “Moonlight Serenade (Goes Latin)”, “Blues Mambo Moods”, “Irene at The Mambo Club”, “Caravan”, “Tune Up” and “Flight Of The Bumble Bee”.

Both are rare and amazing Latin Jazz that I have been featuring on my shows at Alma Del Barrio and ‘Jazzeando En El Valle’ at World Salsa Radio.com that airs every Tuesday from 3-6pm (Pacific Time).