El Condado De La Salsa y Jazz Latino Reviews March 2022

By Nelson Rodríguez

Afro Cuban Jazz had its birth when the genius mind of Mario Bauza fused the afro Cuban rhythms with Jazz while with Jazz bands in New York in the 30’s. Over the years Cubop became Mambo Jazz for musicians in NY and Puerto Rico and the history began to take form. It took form but never to the extent of the recordings that have come out in the past two decades.

In a sit down that I had with Machito (Frank Grillo) & Mario Bauza, circa 1980, the one statement they made that standsouts to me today was that “they saw, from their travels, Latin Jazz evolving in the future to all parts of the world by different cultures and incorporating various folkloric infusions”.

They had seen the ‘writings on the wall’ and I am here to say they were not only right but for the past two decades I have been documenting this very same sentiment at radio and in my articles (print media). Today Latin Jazz is one of the fastest growing genres worldwide and there is no stopping where the music can go.

One of the today’s perfect examples of this comes to us from Taiwan born bassist Vincent Hsu & Soy La Ley Afro-Cuban Jazz Band who exploded onto the scene with two Jazz CDs before this new venture “In Our Blood” (while not Latinos they have that Latin vibe in their veins).

The recording features vibist Victor Mendoza and is one of the best Latin Jazz recordings of this past decade that showcases a true respect and love for the Afro-Cuban side of Jazz and the Taiwanese elements. If I would not have told you this band was from Taiwan you’d never guess as you listen to “Send Me A Letter”, “Esa Nena y su Sazon”, “Dreamer’s Blues”, “Guajira Para Musa”, “Cuban Chant”, “Epiphany” and “Fideua”.

This is great musicianship and music that is truly ‘In Their Blood’!

Another hot release comes to us from a man I can’t believe will be celebrating 31 years soon since the release of Jazz Project at TropiJazz…Humberto Ramirez. “Think Ahead” is another example of artist showcasing old (William ‘Kachiro’ Thompson and Frankie Perez) and new (Giovanni Ortiz, Francisco Alcala & Eduardo Rivera) talent,

Humberto has had a very exciting career with over 20 recording’s, a residency in San Juan, Puerto Rico with his big band on Monday nights and is an internet radio host while becoming a trailblazer for many new Latin Jazz artists.

Many artists reference Humberto as an inspirational composer when I ask them and this CD shows us exactly why they reference him when you hear “The Waiting Room”, “Cartarsis”, “Florencio”, “Una Vela Pa’ Los Santos” and “Encantado”.

Other Latin Jazz recordings coming out include Elio Villafranca, Edgardo Cintron who also will have a cookbook, Tony Rosa’s AfroJazz, Joe Collado, Josean Jacobo & Tumbao, Carlos Averhoff Jr. while there have been new recordings recently by Bill O’Connell, bassist Alex ‘Apolo’ Ayala, guitarist Neff Irizarry, Rayko Leon, and James Sanders & Conjunto.

Salsa has also been producing some great recordings starting with the long awaited Luisito Ayala y La Puerto Rican Power’s “Y Te Lo Dice…” with the vocal talents that have been together for close to a decade now Joshua Marcell, Luisito Ayala Jr, and Norberto Millan. This is a Salsa band that always has a young refreshing sound that brings smiles to the faces of the dancers. “Vamos A Pasarla Bien”, “Y Duele”, “Hacen Que Me Enamore”, “La Sigo Buscando” and “Cajita De Sorpresas” will all bring smiles to your faces!

Vocalist/Guitarist Luis Mario Ochoa has produced a gem titled “Forever Lecuona” that gives us different spectrums of this mans genius through Ochoa’s voice. The lead single “La Mulata Chancletera” has become a club and radio favorite with great improvisations by Ochoa on guitar and Hilario Duran on piano. You get a beautiful danza in “Danza Lucumi”, a jazzy “La Comparsa”, and another favorite “Para Vigo Me Voy” again with Ochoa and Duran on excellent solos and the son “Y La Negra Bailala” as an instrumental good for Jazz radio.

Even though we know very little about young vocalist Coti Loyola we have to mention his “Tributo A Las Leyendas De La Salsa, Vol.1” where he does medleys of popular hits by Frankie Ruiz, Rey Ruiz, Tito Rojas, Oscar D’Leon, Andy Montanez, Cano Estremera, Willie Rosario and Paquito Guzman.

More and more Cuban music has been coming out regularly with the best ones lately being Elito Reve y su Charangon’s 65th anniversary celebration “Evolution 6.5” with some amazing music that includes “El Domino”. “Agarrame Si Puedes”, “Pensate Mal” with guest Yahaira Plasencia, from Peru, “Aqui Te Traigo Un Merengue Son” with Alain Perez, “Maria Belen”, “De Que Estamos Habalndo”, a new version of Elito Sr’s “Papa Eleggua” and a bonus track “Guantanamera” with a nice children’s chorus. One of this year’s best recordings for all dancers and radio.

Chispa (Ignacio R. Cervantes) formed Los Complices in 1998 making his debut on February 27, 1999 in what has become one of the swinging young bands that never fails to please dancers and fans of Timba and music in general. Listening to “Tanto Tienes, Tanto Vales” reminds me of why we love music so much. It allows us to escape the everyday life with the sweet sounds and lyrics such as in the tilr track “Tanto Tienes, Tanto Vales”, “Por Jugar Con Fuego”, “Y Que Tu Crees” with Pedrito Calvo, “Pa’Los De Aqui, Pa’ Los De Alla” with Issac Delgado, “Te Vas A Arrepentir” with Los Munequitos De Matanzas, “Poncha Timba DJ” with Alain Perez y El Noro and the cha cha cha “En La Habana Me Crie” with Orlando Valle ‘Maraca’.

Producer/pianist Manolito Simonte has been super-hot over the last few years with various projects and begins 2022 with “Manolito Simonet Presenta Las Estrellas de Caonao” focus’ on the talent from Camaguey that evolved from a concert. The CD features talents in bolero, trova, timba, rumba, ballad and of course son. My favorites are “El Mal Agradecido with vocalists Frank Nelson ‘Coqui’ & Juan Pablo Estrada, “Tremendo Personaje” with Pedro Pablo Nunez (Orq. Maravillas De Florida), “La Cuidad Vacia/Te Busco En La Ciudad” with Jose Enrique Queralta ‘Kiki’ and Jose Luis Sanchez.

Two Dominicans have released tributes to the great late Johnny Pacheco the first being percussionist Alex Diaz, better known for his Latin Jazz with merengue (originally as AJ Diaz), with his band Son De La Calle “Tributo a Johnny Pacheco” with sensational versions of “Agua Del Clavelito”, “Perla Fina”, “Dime Si Llegue A Tiempo”, “Primoroso Cantar” and “Cositas Buenas”. Of special mention is “Medley: Don Toribio/El Cigarrito/Solo Estoy “. We also have to give kudos to the young new vocalists Santiago Moyano & Elias Romero as well as Ivan Rentas on sax and flute plus trumpeter Nelson Jaime ‘Gazu’ who also plays piano, tres & bass.

The second CD “El Maestro Vive…Cima!” is by Jose Alberto’ El Canario’ brings us a whole new set of Pacheco classics along with “Primoroso Cantar”. Listen to the swing behind “Dulce Con Dulce”, “Yolanda”, “Como Cocina La Gorda”, “Ponle Punto”, “Viralo Al Reves”, and “Mujer Ingrata”.