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Column: Editor's Picks

by Bruce Polin

With this issue we bid farewell to our friend, Frankie Malabe, who died on April 21. Always humble and good-natured, he was a friend to many. He was one of Latin music's unsung heroes. Those of us lucky enough to have known him personally know that his loss will be felt not only by us, but by many future percussionists who might have been taught by this master. Bobby Sanabria tells us about Frankie's background as a musician and educator.

Our cover story on Oscar D'Leon takes a look at a man who has probably not gotten the serious attention he merits. Although he is well known and sells lots of records, his body of work, as a whole, has not really been assessed critically. And because he has such a high profile in the pop salsa world, all the more reason to take a closer look at this Venezuelan superstar. George De Stefano offers his insights with this review of Toitico Tuyo.

We've gotten a slew of great new releases and reissues. Here's a fraction of what you should be checking out. The Salsa All Stars (TL-13176.10), who actually are the Alegre All Stars, Cesta All Stars, etc. etc. Includes "Descarga De Cueros y Vientos" (over 9-1/2 minutes) and "Descarga en 'K' " with a bass solo by Bobby Rodriguez and a trumpet solo by Puchi. Dimension Latina's Inolvidable. Since our cover story is about Oscar, I thought you should also check out his early stuff with this band. They've packed a lot of stuff onto this CD. Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino's Concepts in Unity (TL-13168.10). This seminal recording, originally a 2 LP album is considered a classic with Manny Oquendo, the Gonzalez brothers (Andy & Jerry), Milton Cardona and a cast of thousands (not quite, but many). This band, really the beginnings of Conjunto Libre, does extended jams incorporating folkloric rhythms of Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican origin. Cheito. This is a really nice premier CD by this Cuban trumpet player/vocalist/percussionist. This is salsa with a pan-Caribbean feel and was produced by Emilio Estefan. Very nice, indeed. Africando Vol 2: Tierra Tradicional (TL-13018.10). I know what you're saying. "How they can they possibly follow up Vol. I (Trovador)?" Well, here's how. A terrific follow up with master New York Latin musicians lined up with three extremely gifted African vocalists (Pape Seck, Medoune Diallo, and Nicolas Menheim). La Combinacion Perfecta (TL-13180.30). This video, one of the few salsa performance videos available, is a salsa-lover's dream. Shot in Miami in October of 1993, it includes performances by Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Oscar D'Leon, Cheo Feliciano, Jose Alberto "El Canario," India, Van Lester, Giovanni Hidalgo, etc. etc. etc. Need I say more? How 'bout Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez. Okay? Sold.

Oh, by the way, check out the Fania All Stars reunion tour. They'll be in New York's Madison Square Garden in June. To find out if they'll be coming to a concert hall near you, contact OMNI Latino Entertainment at (718) 388-4399.

Bruce Polin, House Speaker

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