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Column: Editor's Picks

by Bruce Polin

Steak. If, like me, you eat meat — then you know the pleasure of a good steak. The quality of the steak is the measure of a restaurant's worth. I recently dined at Tito Puente's new restaurant on City Island. I was with a party of seven - most of whom chose seafood, which City Island is known for. The paella looked great with LARGE crab legs. The huge portion was split by three people. The aroma made me want the paella. Then my steak came. A N.Y. strip. Um. Later for the paella. I like well-done meat. This steak was tender and juicy. Go there. You'll have a nice time.

Okay lets get into the meat of the music. Modesto Cepeda, one of Puerto Rico's few flame-keepers of the bomba and plena tradition, has a new release aptly named Raices de Bomba Y Plena (TL-14370.10). Great dance material here.

In 1994 the Fania All Stars had a reunion concert that travelled from Puerto Rico to Miami to New York. There's now a CD of the PR show (TL-14331.10) that captures the intensity of these salsa legends. If you're tired of the current salsa offerings "La Mascara" will wake you up.

Echando Pa'Lante (TL-14249.10) is creme de la creme Eddie Palmieri with his stunning La Perfecta band. A sixties masterpiece.

There is a four volume Historia Musical Del Conjunto Classico that is superb. The chosen cuts are top notch. If you're not familiar with this no-nonsense straight-up salsa band, get this. Hear Tito Nieves at his best. With other Clasico vocalists such as Johnny Rivera, Rafael de Jesus and the legendary Daniel Santos who does a haunting "Lamento Borincano" on Volume 1.

I've always felt that maestro Willie Rosario has been overlooked by the music press. He's not the pop star type, but for decades this timbalero/bandleader has been churning out some of the best salsa from Puerto Rico. His brand new release, Sorpresas (TL-14302.10) is his best in years. What a band.

Since the founding of Descarga, one of the most oft-asked questions has been "Do you have Jerry Gonzalez's Ya Yo Me Cure?" The answer, until now, has always been "No." This 1979 classic (TL-14325.10) was briefly available on CD about five years ago. It's back. It's a gorgeous work.

What's new from Cuba, you ask? Opus 13's Reclama Por Tu Cuerpo (TL-14206.10) is very from-the-moment salsa. Ritmo Oriental fans will be happy to know that we have the new Tremenda Habana (TL-14209.10). Lastly, Manolin - El Medico De La Salsa should not be missed. His Una Aventura Loca (TL-14217.10) is a hit in Cuba. Hard to find.

Kip Hanrahan, my favorite I-don't-know-what-the-heck-he's-doin'-but-I-like-it artist has reissued All Roads Are Made of The Flesh (TL-14244.10). I don't usually go for concept work or stuff that's artsy, but Kip's work consistently generates authenticity and sincerity. And the participating musicians are top notch.

Carlos 'Patato' Valdés, Cuban percussionist José Luis 'Changuito' Quintana and timbalero Orestes Vilato got together and jammed in San Francisco. The result is Ritmo Y Candela (TL-14415.10). Put this jam session at the top of your list.

Latin jazzers have some new things to listen to here. The Afro Blue Band's Impressions (TL-14333.10) is the new release that features Arthur Barron, Steve Berrios, Jerry Gonzalez, Hilton Ruiz, Papo Vasquez and others. Big band arranger/conductor Chico O'Farrill is back with Pure Emotion (TL-14309.10) and an all-star cast including Manny Oquendo. Chico is a living legend and this is a gourmet release that is packed with talent. Fred Ramirez, vibist, offers his Tribute To The Legends of Latin Jazz (TL-14313.10) on this Dos Coronas release. Giovanni Hidalgo's long awaited Timeshifter (TL-14308.10) is finally out and features compositions by Bobby Paunet, Marty Sheller, Gil Lopez, Cole Porter, Armando Peraza, and Jerome Kern as well as Hidalgo. The Caribbean Jazz Project (TL-14214.10), is made up of Paquito D'Rivera, Andy Narell, Dave Samuels, Luis Conte on congas and others. It's out on the Head Ups label.

Reissues abound here at Descarga Central. On SAR we have piano master Alfredo Valdes Jr. y Su Orquesta (TL-14341.10) with two violins and flute-meister José Fajardo. Chocolate Armenteros is on board with his trumpet on this beautiful charanga release.

Hot Pastrana (TL-14337.10) was drummer Joey Pastrana's third album for Cotique. It dates from 1968 and has a Johnny Colón sensibility with some tunes in English.

Soy Boricua (TL-14346.10), Bobby Valentin's 1972 release for Fania is out on CD as is the Lebron Brother's 1973 Asunto De Familia (14339.10), which, some say, is their best record. Vocals by Pablo Lebron.

Ralfi Pagan's self-titled release (TL-14310.10) from 1974 epitomizes the Latin soul style that was popular in the 70s. Aqui Llegamos (TL-14258.10) is the 1974 release by one of my favorite salsa bands from that era, Orchestra Dicupe. Junior Gonzalez and Roberto Torres on coro. Produced by Larry Harlow.

Tierra Va A Temblar (TL-14347.10), the 1975 release by Johnny Colón — who's known predominantly for his Boogaloo Blues recording, is out on CD. This is a strong son montuno salsa release produced by Colón and William Millan (of Saoco) who also contributed arrangements.

Alfredo De La Fé, one of my favorite violin players, has a new salsa release entitled La Salsa De Los Dioses (TL-14372.10). De La Fé, who played with the Fania All Stars, Charanga '76, El Gran Combo, Típica '73 and others, studied at the Amadeo Roldán de La Habana in the early '60s. His Orchestra Rytmo Africa Cubana is considered a classic. This new release is a fine salsa with great grooves. Recommended.

The Caney label has put out Cuban Rhythms by Peruchín and Charlie Palmieri (TL-14204.10). The Palmieri work is dated back from 1948 and features Sabú Martinez on congas. The Peruchín material was recorded in Havana, 1954.

Two new releases round up this issue's picks. They are both on the Nimbus label and feature music from Oriente de Cuba. The first, Familia Valera Miranda (TL-14215.10) features the son form, the other, Folkloyuma(TL-14216.10) features the rumba. They both have extensive liner notes.

In the meantime, make mine well-done.

Bruce, Resident Health Food Expert

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