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Column: Editor's Picks

by Bruce Polin

I’d like to begin with the Cuban material, specifically three essential titles that have been produced by World Circuit in the UK. They are: Afro Cuban All Stars, A Toda Cuba Le Gusta (TL-16087.10) with some players like Cachaito, Angá and Julienne Oviedo and the soneros Ibrahím Ferrer, Pío Leyva, Mañuel “Puntillita” Licea, Raúl Planas and others. The second title is Buena Vista Social Club (TL-16086.10) featuring Compay Segundo, Eliades Ochoa, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ry Cooder (yes, Ry Cooder, who, by the way, is also the producer) and a slew of other notables. The third is Introducing...Rubén Gonzalez (TL-16085.10). This is the veteran piano master’s first recording under his own name. You may recognize his name from his contribution to many classic Arsenio Rodriguez recordings from the 40s and 50s. He’s joined here by Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez on bass, Amadito Valdés on timbales, Roberto Garía on bongos, Carlos Gonzaléz on congas and “Guajiro” Mirabel on trumpet. Don’t go to sleep tonight with getting these three beautiful recordings.

Peruchín Jr., the guitar playing son of the acclaimed Cuban pianist, has released Descargando: Cuban Jam Session (TL-15886.10). It is a nice release featuring Changuito, Tata Güines, Richard Egües, Hilario Duran etc.

Candela Records, continuing their commitment to Cuban music, has released two fine products. A new Orquesta Aragón called Cha Cha Charanga (TL-16043.10) and new Son 14 with Tiburón on vocals called Cubania (TL-15882.10) .

Malembe (TL-15857.10) is the new release by the hard hitting Cubanismo which features the usual suspects: Jesús Alemañy, Alfredo Rodriguez, Tata G., Orlando Valle “Maraca,” Carlos Del Puerto, and Rojitas on vocals.

Dan Den’s latest release, Son Cubano A Lo Dan Den (TL-15936.10) , is a tip of the hat to Cuban standards like "El Manisero," "La Guantanamera," "Ay! Mama Ines," "Para Cochero" and "Yo Soy El Punto Cubano."

Former Son 14 vocalist Adalberto Alvarez’ latest solo project, Magistral (TL-15935.10), is a big seller.

The label Blue Jackel has released an impressive 4 CD boxed set (made to look like a cigar box) called Cuba: I Am Time (TL-16072.10). The four CDs are entitled: Cuban Invocations, Cantar En Cuba, Bailar Con Cuba, and Cubano Jazz. With over 4-1/2 hours of audio, the effect is a historical overview of Cuban music. For some more details, see the listing under Various Artists in the back of this newsletter.

One of the hot new Cuban bands is Klimax led by percussionist Giraldo Piloto. Their new release is called Juego de Manos (TL-16017.10) .

The pianist/vocalist Lilia Exposito Pino “Bellita” has her debut release with jazz the oriented Bellita y Su Jazztumbatá (TL-16019.10) .

The a cappella group Vocal Sampling’s De Vacaciones (TL-16033.10) is finally out after an initial delay.

The veteran Cuban percussionist Pancho Quinto has a folkloric-based rumba CD called En El Solar La Cueva Del Humo (TL-16025.10).

Son Damas, an all female salsa band from Cuba has released Llegó Son Damas (TL-16022.10) produced by NG La Banda’s José Luis Cortés “El Tosco.”

Based on the number of recent releases of related titles, there appears to be an escalating interest in Puerto Rican folkloric music. Besides the recent release of Plena Libre, there is also one by Pleneaolo, another of the island’s practicioners of plena as a dance medium. Their CD is Pa’ Que Suene El Pandero... (TL-15864.10). There’s also Tambó (TL-16104.10), the new CD by Paracumbé, the band founded in 1979 by ethnomusicologist Emanuel Dufrasne González in order to preserve and promote bomba and plena traditions. Finally, Modesto Cepeda and his orquesta have released their new CD entitled Legado de Bomba y Plena (TL-16021.10).

Kubaney has released a “best-of” double CD of Raulin, a salsero whom I admire. It’s called El Disco De Oro (TL-16028.10) and has 30 cuts.

Here are some reissues of note: Ricardo Marrero and The Group’s release of Jessica (TL-15993.10), with Ismael Quintana on vocals from 1979. Ruben Blades Greatest Hits (TL-15914.10) is a fantastic 2 CD set that contains the cream of the crop of Blades’ output with Fania. Frankie Dante Y Orquesta Flamboyan’s Different Directions (TL-16023.10), released originally in 1968, is a wonderful number with laid back swing. I have always been a big fan of Flamboyan.

There is a 2-CD set of the Best of the Fania All Stars (TL-16082.10). Originally made for the French market, this definitive compilation is now available here. The Fania All Stars also have a new (yes, new) release called Bravo (TL-16084.10). This title was originally supposed to have young Cuban singers (Paulito, Issac D., etc) accompanying the FAS. Sony, however, chickened out (their offices are in Miami), so you won’t find the Cubans anywhere on this CD. They did, however, manage to pull of a big fat sound with mucho sabor with the help of the great Andy Montañez.

A great release is the reissue of Tata Guerra Y Los Matanceros called Cuba Es El Son (1979) (TL-16005.10). Each of the twelve son montunos and guajiras here are better than the last.
I have liked David Cedeño’s band for quite some time. He has just completed an extended gig in Japan (6 months?) and has returned with the CD, aptly titled, Back From Japan (TL-16026.10). If you don’t mind the English lyrics on some of the songs and the somewhat Las Vegas-like vocals, you’ll find a tight high energy party band.

Ray Castro and Conjunto Clasico has a new title out with Clasico (TL-16047.10).

Johnny Almendra and his band, Los Jovenes Del Barrio have been picking up momentum since their first release Evolucionando. Their new release, Reconfirmando (TL-15964.10), firmly establishes them as two things: a great band and a marketable band. Johnny’s wife Jillian contributes to the vocals as does special guest Tito Nieves.

Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo Sound has a new release entitled Mi Música 1997 (TL-16044.10). Luisito Carrion and Temp Alomar are the vocalists. Also with Papo Lucca on piano and Charlie Sepulveda on trumpet.

Colombian salsa is alive and well. One very interesting release is by Yuri Buenaventura called Herencia Africana (TL-15889.10) on the Caracol label.

Tito Nieves has a mostly all English salsa release entitled I Like It Like That (TL-15867.10). Don’t miss this CD’s extended club mix of "I Like It Like That."

Just as we were coming to press we received a new Cuban release by the vocalist Hanny. It’s called The Voice of Cuba (TL-16108.10). I never heard of Hanny before so I didn’t know what to expect. Get it, it’s great. This is not the kind of flashy pyrotechnic salsa that is being being done by some other vocalists on the island. Although he’s only 24, his is a more mature sound, rich and danceable.

Now here’s a really nice release from the Bronx: Wayne Gorbea’s Salsa Picante Cogele El Gusto (TL-15876.10). Andy Gonzalez mixed this brew of rhythm and sabroso. This is a very fat sounding salsa with great swing. Highly recommended.

Latin jazz? Okay. We’ve got ¡Que Rico! Mozambique (TL-15884.10) by Ricardo Estrada. Also, a new release simply titled Steve Turre (TL-15957.10) that has a huge bunch of talent involved like Milton Cardona, Jimmy Bosch, Chocolate Armenteros, Manny Oquendo, even Graciela. The Venezuelan vocalist Maria Rivas And The Latin Jazz Combo led by Alberto Naranjo have a new release called Muare (TL-16020.10). Maria does many jazz and swing standards like "Night And Day," "Stardust," and "That Old Black Magic" done to Latin rhythms. The West Coast band Shades of Jade (so named for Cal Tjader) led by timbalero Bill Laster have come out with their sixth project, From Africa To New York (TL-16048.10). Some very beautiful cha chas and mambos are peppered throughout this release.

Finally, a fine compilation called ¡Latino! ¡Latino! (TL-16050.10) has been produced on the Putumayo World Music label. A nice selection makes for interesting listening. Artists like Ricardo Lemvo, Oscar D’Leon, Willie Colón and Sierra Maestra are included as are some lesser known groups like Kaoma and Toto La Momposina. Recommended.

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