El Condado De La Salsa y Jazz Latino Reviews October 2023
By Nelson Rodríguez
Can’t believe this year is about to end and this is my review of a very active summer into fall of material that has arrived with the biggest impact coming from the Latin Jazz genre with some huge releases that will be playing at radio until next year at this time. These new recordings are all fantastic and vying for the top of many playlists and ‘Year End Best’ lists. Next month I will present the best of 2023 both in Salsa and Latin Jazz including the best of ’23 hit parade list as aired on my shows at Alma Del Barrio and World Salsa Radio.com. I also have a new specialty show on Sabor Boricua Radio.com called “Saboriando Salsa y Mas” on Thursdays at 3pm (Pacific Time). For now the best of the past five months.
We start with the Cuban/Canadian pianist Hilario Duran and his Latin Jazz Big Band’s “Cry Me A River” which is a Top 3 candidate for Best Latin Jazz recording of 2023 and Hilario’s first Big Band release in seventeen years. This 19-piece ensemble features the guests Paquito D’ Rivera, Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez and OKAN plus the talents of such musicians as Alexis Baro, Alexander Brown, Luis Deniz, Roberto Riveron, Luis Mario Ochoa, and Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosko”.
The hits are endless from beginning to end highlighted by “Paca Por Juanito” (dedicated to the Cuban guitarist Juanito Marquez with Ochoa on the guitar, “Mambo y Tumbao”, “Fantasia Impromptu”, “Wild Blues”, “I Remember Mingus”, “Claudia”, and the beautiful title track, “Cry Me a River” sung by Elizabeth Rodriguez.
Trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and his brother Robert, who plays piano, are long time veterans that have played with a ‘Who’s Who’ of jazz and after 20 years since their first collaboration just released this year “Reunited- Live at Dizzy’s Club”, in New York, with a powerful quintet CD that also features Anthony Almonte on Conga, Adam Cruz on drums and Ricky Rodriguez (no relation to the brothers) on bass.
This duo is one of this generations best as showcased on this CD (The Rodriguez Brothers) with excellent vibrant performances on “Gitmo’s Groove”, “Guayaquil” (dedicated to their mom), “Minor Things”, “Descargation”, and “Impromptu”. Let’s hope they don’t wait another 20 years to record together again!
Mario Ortiz Jr. has been releasing a CD in homage to his dd every five years and “60th Anniversary Spectacular” is a gem worth a Grammy nomination as are The Rodriguez Brothers and Hilario Duran. It is by far the most innovative CD Latin Jazz CD’s and Mario’s first as a band leader. The Mario Ortiz All Star Band plays two covers from Mario Sr. “Move” and “Random Riff” and the themes “Mission Impossible “, “Star Wars”, “Super Mario Brothers” (a Bomba Jazz), and my two favorites “A Disney Tribute” and “TV Nostalgia” that took me back to my childhood and the early years of my daughter’s life going to see all those Disney movies and the joy they brought me.
Of special mention is a particular part in the tune ‘TV Nostalgia” when ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ comes up with an amazing banjo solo by Mario’s grandson Michael who is autistic. There is also a tribute to Classical music, “Classic’s Hint” and the awesome original “Kings Journey” with special guests Miguel Zenon, Anthony Carrillo, Roberto Quintero and Marito himself on trumpet.
Speaking of Miguel Zenon he teams with pianist Luis Perdomo for the second time, even though they have been linked to recordings for many years, with the release of “El Arte Del Bolero, Volume 2” with some exciting boleros such as Ruben Blades classic that he recorded with Louie Ramirez and Friends “Paula C”. It’s a tribute to the Latin American Songbook that also has two Tito Rodriguez favorites “En La Oscuridad” & “En La Soledad”, plus Simon Diaz’ “Caballo Viejo”, Beny More’s version of “Macho Corazon”, and Rafael Hernandez’ “Silencio”.
There is a band called Third Generation Ensemble that features brothers Zach & Adam O’Farrill (sons of Arturo O’Farrill), Kali Rodriguez Peña, Jessie Ricardo Anduz, Ernesto C. Vega and ‘The Valdes Brothers’ who are actually sister and brother Leyanis & Jessie Valdes (Chucho Valdes’ kids). Leyanis is a fantastic pianist and Jessie a drummer who appeared before in the recording titled “Los Herederos”.
The new recording is titled “Valdes Brothers” and grandfather Bebo Valdes would be proud as Chucho should be. These young bright siblings excel on “Corta Tranquilidad”, “Laura”, “Pa’ Chucho”, “Pa’ Bebo”, “Maniacomia” and “En Camino”.
The Santiago Big Band Ft. Marcus Fernandez and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Ft. Arturo O’Farrill have a fabulous concept CD, “Santiago Brooklyn Santiago”, on Zoho Music with EGREM (a first for two labels from NY/Cuba), that showcases each band doing their tracks with soloists from the other band. Both bandleaders met several times over the past few years and came up with this concept.
Former radio host, in Detroit , Michigan and band leader, who is also a Family Practioner, Alberto Nacif has been a staple in that are with his Latin Jazz recordings and his group Aguanko who just released their 5th CD in eleven years, “Unidad”.
This is an amazing Latin Jazz CD that has the Mambos “Kintsugi”, “Un Poco Cubop” & “Intercepcion” the Comparsa Mambo “Espacio Verde”, and the Rumba Mambo “Todo Es Todo” and the impressive improvisations by trumpeter Charlie Miller, his dad saxophonist Russ Miller, pianist Rick Roe, timbalero Jose Espinosa, trombonist Christopher Smith and conguero Alberto Nacif.
Veteran flute player Colette Michaan has a fascinating new CD, that may be her bet yet, and made the cut for 2023 just last week, titled “Earth Rebirth”.
The compositions come from an array of stars including the Cheo Felicaino/Nick Jimenez classic “El Raton”, Charles Mingus’ “Reincarnation Of a Lovebird”, Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away”, Orlando ‘Maraca’ Valle’s “Campiña” with an all-star lineup of Luisito Quintero, John Benitez, Mireya Ramos on vocals, pianist Leo Genovese and Yusnier Sanchez Bustamente on percussion.
Raquel Bitton is a French Jazz singer who delights us with her homage to Latin music with her unique hi-falsetto voice on the CD “Ces’t Magnifique” and we fell in love with her version of “Historie D’Un Amor”.
We also had some great releases in Salsa starting with the late last year release of veteran Raphy Santi y su Conjunto’s “50 Aniversario”, on the Musiq label, that we were introduced to with the single “Cuando Se Acuerden De Mi” with vocalist Tony Rivas and his brother Jerry Rivas on tres.
Then you have “Flora” and “Acuerdate De Mi” sung by Carlos El Grande, “Angelina’ & “Tierra Divina” sung by Alvin Rodriguez, “Guajiro Natural” sung by Javier Santos, and a nice version of the Joe Cuba Sextet/Jimmy Sabater Latin Soul gem “To Be With You” sung by Angel Luis Santiago.
Composer Eduardo Zayas y su EZ La Banda has a 2-CD set, “Mas Zayas Que Pescao” and as of a week ago was presenting a new track for his third CD in 2024. This current release is a huge winner that Eduardo started launching last year with “El Arte De Sonear” featuring Mariana La Sonera & Rico Walker followed by “El Sargazo” featuring Nelson Pinueve & Fernando ‘El Sonero’ Mercado and “Mas Zayas Que Pescao” featuring Rodrigo Mendoza.
Add to this the new hits “La Salsa De Vellonera” featuring the veteran Hall of Famer Sammy ‘El Rolo’ Gonzalez, “El Tio Vicente” with Charlie Guzman, “Elegia Pal Sonero” with Gumby Navedo, and “Dos Puntos De Vista” with Yeruska Verdu (one the brightest and hottest female vocalist today) & Luchito Muñoz. Eduardo has also been busy writing for others as I predicted over a Year ago.
Another hot Salsa CD comes to us from Canada and the multi-talented DJ Ricky Campanelli proving that that man knows club hits for dancers as well as radio. “Nos Curamos Con La Rumba” that has 16 tracks all worthy of air play starting with the lead single “Salsakando” with solos by trumpeter Jonathan Powell (Eddie Palmieri), tresero Pablosky Rosales and flutist Giovany Arteaga.
My picks also include “Cali Esta Encendido” with Marcial Isturiz (this years winner for the most guest appearances), “Ametralladora” with vocalist Waltinho Andrade & pianist Gabriel Evangelista (a name to remember), “Aco Aco” with Lengaia Salsa Brava, “Lumari” with Andy Rubal, “Hasta Que Se Rompa El Cuero” with Frankie Vazquez (who has been in Colombia for the better part of 2023), “Me Matengo” with trumpeter Yordan Martinez, “Oye Lo Que Traigo Yo” and “Rumba Callejera”. A true dancefloor scorcher!
Two of Cuba’s top Timba vocalists are Mandy Cantero & Michel Maza that as Los Ases De La Timba perform ‘Mano a Mano’ on the Envidia label that has quietly been producing over a dozen recordings over the past few years. Standouts here include “La Verdadera Escuela”, “Por Chismoso y Charlatan”, “Los Envidiosos”, “Loco De Remate” and “Amigos De Mi Barrio”.
Estrella Acosta & Esquina 25 have produced an excellent concept album “Tierra- Songs By Cuban Women” with compositions by Sara Gonzalez, Radeunda Lima, Iris Gonzalez, Estrella Acosta herself and my favorite pick Acosta’s version of Celina Gonzalez’ “Que Viva Chango”.
Acosta’s quinte includes as musical director Marc Bishoff (who is MD for Nueva Manteca), bassist Samuel Ruiz, drummer Enrique Firipi, reedman Efrain Trujillo and guests Gerardo Rosales and corista Alberto Caicedo. Nino Segarra has a new CD “Con La Musica Por Fuera- Celebrando 40 Años De Carrera Discografica” where he has been releasing one track every Friday on social media.
Son Del Monte is a band led by timbalero Manuel (Manny) Rivera, from New York fame with Yambu (produced by Al Santiago) on their first two LP’s and the Disco hit “Sunny” and later the Sublime (then Son Sublime) before forming Son Del Monte and recording in 2019.
The EP “Una Charanga Con Ago Mas” includes two covers and two originals “Vengo De Nueva York” sung by Luis Soto and “Herman” that features another hall of famer Luisito Ayala on vocals. The band has been together with Manny for eleven years plus. It was when he wrote “Mambo Charanga” for Yambu that the idea of combining Conjunto with Charanga first surfaced that he calls today ‘Chajunto’.
Gary Vera & Bomplenea have been producing some great Plenas, Bombas, Salsa and Latin Jazz for some years now and a current hit “Salsa y Sazon”. Their previous two full length CD’s “Ritmo Caliente” with vocalist Doel Gonzalez and the latest “Cultural y Salseando” with vocalists Carlene Vera & Orlando Ortiz (New Swing Sextet).
Vocalist Doel Gonzalez gets on the map with his CD “Escucha y Baila” that showcases Salsa, Boleros, Plena y Timba. For years Doel did coros for many major stars in Puerto Rico. The lead single “Genaria” features Jerry Rivas on tres and Julito Alvarado on trumpet.
Manolito Simonet is one of Cuba’s finest exponents of music with his band El Trabuco for the past three decades after his stint as Musical Director of Las Maravillas De Florida. Simonet had done something that was popular in the early years…two records released in one year.
“Trabuco” shines with the tracks “Me Estas Provocando”, “Soy El Trabuco”, “Cuidate”, “Melodia Para Una Leyenda Juan Formell”, “and “Disiplina”. On “Manolito Simonet Presents Tributo a La Maravilla” has the go to tracks “Caras Extrañas”, “No Puedo Mas”, “Un Compositor Confundido”, “Tributo a La Maravilla”, “Guiro Son Wanbari” and “Y Lo Bailan Todos”.
Freddie Miranda Jr. while part of a famous lineage has made a name for himself as part of the Army Reserve Band for close to 20 years and his debut “Anda! Toca Miranda” with explosive salsa and Latin Jazz. The Latin Jazz tracks “Decision”, originally recorded by Seis Del Solar, & “Simon’s Window” plus the Salsa track “Anda! Toca Miranda”.
Future hits include “Asoma El Coco & “Cha Cha Por Favor” with a funky bass solo by Abuid Flores, Jonathan Montes on piano, Luisito Quintero on timbal, Luis ‘Perico’ Ortiz as guest, and Freddie on conga and vocals.
Trombonist Doug Beavers is one of the industries busiest musicians and producers with his Circle 9 label and recording studio. His new CD, “Luna” picks up where “Sol” left off with the Luna suite, composed by the first six tracks, that has the Latin Jazz tunes “Tidal” and “Las Piedras”.
I also liked the track “Sands Of Time” and the Salsa “Multicolores” featuring Jeremy Boach that is already a radio hit. The all-star band includes Manuel ‘Maneco’ Ruiz, Ivan Renta, Gabriel Chakarji, Luques Curtis, Luisito Quintero, Conrad Herwig, Francisco Torres, Joe Locke, Robbie Ameen, George Delgado, Jerry Madera, Camilo Molina and Max Seigel.
At last the all bolero album by Jose Alberto ‘El Canario’, “Rondando Por El Mundo”, finally surfaced with some great collaborations that include Gilberto Santa Rosa, Pablo Milanes, Victor Manuelle, Milly Quesada, Sergio Vargas, Charlie Aponte, Alexander Abreu and others.
A great gift for Christmas for your spouse or significant other and definitely a great gift for Valentine’s Day 2024. It has medleys of hits by Armando Manzanero, Beny More, Vicentico Valdes, Rolando La Serie and other bolero standards like “Si Te Contara”, “El Amor De Mi Bohio”, “Tu Que Has Hecho” and “A Medianoche” (Bolero Cha).
Aymee Nuviola, who has been busy on two live releases with Gonzalo Rulbacaba, is back with another young lion on piano, Kemuel Roig, on her CD “Havana Nocturne”. The duo compliment each other very well on the songs “
A long time vocal veteran Adriel Gonzalez is back and better than ever with his new CD “Hecho y Derecho” with the powerful title track that has him performing with Herman Olivera and brings us a mix of Salsa Dura and Salsa Romantica.
The choices here include “Somos”, “Lo Reconozco”, “Que Pasara?”, and “Ya Es Tarde” that will be favorites of fans old and new. Also of special interest is the team up with Nino Segarra on “Cosas Del Amor”.
Ray Viera remembers fondly his mentor Johnny Pacheco with this EP appropriately titled “Pachecolandia” that came out at the end of 2022 with six fabulous tunes starting out with the title track that features the multi-talented Edwin Sanchez followed by “Baila Vicente”, “Llora (Como Yo Llore)”, “Yo Quiero Morir Cantando”, “Ven Y Ven”, and “El Guiro De Macorina”.
A great tribute to the master Johnny Pacheco that follows the tributes that Alex Diaz and Jose Alberto ‘El Canario’ did last year.
The Sixth Street All Stars (homage to 6th Street & Allston in Berkeley, California) is the bay areas new band formed by vocalists Molly Suske & Dana Hinchliffe that produced the debut CD “Everybody”.
It features various vocalists and a variety of rhythms that include Rumba, Son Montuno, Bolero, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha and more with tinges of Jazz & Blues. Very nice debut with the tracks “Rendirse”, “Gorrioncita”, “Electricidad”, “It’s Too Late” and “Everybody”.