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Column: Editor's Picks

by Bruce Polin

Aside from the obvious (see our cover review on Pasaporte... (TL-14010.10). Now that CD is a must-have), the most intriguing new release since issue #19 has been Vocal Sampling's Una Forma Mas (TL-14017.10). There is simply no precedent for the kind of work these guys are doing (see page 10). For those of you who don't know this "band," let me fill you in. They are a group of young Cuban guys doing what sounds like beautifully orchestrated dance and rumba tunes with full band implementation except that there's no band, or, I should say, no instruments — except their mouths. Totally a capella. It is simply a remarkable sound that you have to hear to believe.

Camilo Azuquita, the veteran vocalist who has played with everyone from Puente to Blades, has a French release entitled La Foule - Salsa International 1994 (TL-13946.10). The line up is outstanding, beginning with Nicky Marrero and Sonny Bravo. Half the CD was recorded in New York and half in Paris. If you are not familiar with the Bad Street Boys (TL-13924.10), don't let the corny name fool you. This is a compilation of material from the 80s by José "Nando" Pintor's band with Eddie Iglesias and Frankie Morales on vocals. Milton Cardona is on coro with arrangements by Marty Sheller and others. It has some well done English salsa cuts and some classics like "Gitana" and "Cheek to Cheek".

Last time I told you about Cuban Gold 2: Bajo Con Tumbao (TL-14007.10). Well, it's out and is an outstanding effort by Qbadisc. It includes the 14-1/2 minute "Guaguancó A Todos Los Barrios" by Estrellas De Areito. La Gran Banda De Venezuela has put out the super-hot straight-ahead salsa CD entitled Sabrosito (TL-13925.10). Hilton Ruiz's Hands On Percussion (TL-13842.10) is his best effort yet. Tito Puente is a guest. Giovanni Hidalgo is in top form as are Andy Gonzalez, Steve Berrios, Ignacio Berroa, Papo Vazquez, Dave Valentin and David Sanchez.

Two salseros from Cuba, Issac Delgado and Adalberto Alvarez, have joined forces on El Chévere de la Salsa/El Caballero del Son (TL-13935.10). This is one of my favorites from the island. Although Issac and Adalberto sing together on only two cuts, this is an extremely strong release throughout. Other vocalists are Rojitas and Yanithza (who do a a great version of the India/Marc Anthony hit "Vivir Lo Nuestro"), Daría and Leonel.

Vagabundeando (TL-13930.10) has always been one of my favorite Joe Cuba releases. It has finally been made available on CD. It has the original "El Raton" with vocals by Cheo Feliciano. Speaking of Joe, he has put out a brand new release called Steppin' Out Again (TL-13934.10) that boasts some remarkable talent like Isidro Infante, Johnny Torres, Papo Pepin, Mark Quiñones, Mauricio Smith, Ray De La Paz, Nestor Sanchez, Yomo Toro and others. My favorite cut: "Pan Con Queso y Salami." Nice groove.

Want to hear some nice Colombian salsa? Check out vocalist Kike Harvey's La Isla Bonita . He has a nice relaxed style. His version of the cover tune (which was a hit for Madonna) is a good club dance number. Fans of Conjunto Céspedes have been waiting for a follow up to the popular Una Sola Casa. Vivito Y Coleando/Alive & Kicking (TL-13933.10) is their second release (produced by John Santos) and should prove to be just as successful, opening up with "Qué Viva Changó."

We took in a new label, from Spain, last month called Discmedi. They have licensed material from the archives of the Institute of Cuban Radio and Television. All of the CDs are interesting. There is a live Beny Moré, a Conjunto Casino, an Aragón, a Cascarita and others. Two that stand out are Mi Salsa En Descarga Vol. 1 (TL-13890.10) and Combo Siboney's Descarga Latina (TL-13891.10). Mi Salsa is a compilation of jams by Cuba's musical elite. Band members from NG La Banda, Opus 13, Afrocuba, Aragón, Perspectiva, Emiliano Salvador, Tata Güines, Issac Delgado, Gonzalo Rubalcaba etc. break out in depraved abandon. Five stars. The Combo Siboney CD is from 1966 and has Juanito Marquez on guitar, Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez on bass, Orestes "Macho" Lopez on piano, Guillermo Barreto on drums and paila, Tata Güines on congas, Rolito Rodriguez and Orlando Reyes on vocals and others. This CD is the slow the best of Cachao's descargas.

Qbadisc has released Vacunao (TL-14015.10) with all new material by Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. This CD has 10 cuts and is the best rumba I have heard in a long time. Oscar D'Leon's Canta La Música Cubana, Vol. 2 is out on CD and, for my money, this is the best material he has done. He does Beny More classics as well as tunes by Arsenio Rodriquez, Abelardo Barroso and Miguel Matamoros.

Sony has released their Leyendas/Legends series of CDs. Among them are a Fajardo, Joe Quijano, Arsenio Rodriguez, Xavier Cugat and Eddie Palmieri. The Palmieri happens to be Lucumí, Macumba, Voodoo (TL-13962.10) the classic Afro-Latin concept release from 1978. Religious, folkloric, jazz and pop influences permeate this pivotal release. It includes the almost 13 minute "Mi Congo Te Llama" medley.

Not one but two Peruchin CDs made their way here this month. La Descarga (TL-13945.10) and Peruchineando (TL-13947.10) will surely satiate those waiting for The Incendiary Piano to be reissued. Plena Libre is a band from Puerto Rico that produces high energy dance music rooted in the compelling plena tradition. Juntos Y Revueltos (TL-13926.10) is a fine debut CD.

Ismael Quintana's Amor, Vida y Sentimiento (TL-13928.10) is now available on CD. A tremendous record and a tremendous band (thirty contributing musicians). Seven violinists! Tony Cofresi, Barry Rogers, Perico Ortiz, Pappo Lucca, Nicky Marrero, Orestes Vilato, Pupi Legarreta, Andy Gonzalez...the list goes on and on. This record would be too damned expensive to produce today. Get it. Seis Del Solar has a new Latin jazz CD out called Alternate Roots (TL-14016.10) which reflects some personnel changes. Speaking of Latin jazz, check out Steve Turre's release called Rhythm Within (TL-14003.10). It is a fine follow up to his masterful Sanctified Shells recording.

Long unavailable on CD, Tito Allen's El Intocable (TL-3504.10) is back. Dating from 1988, this is one of his best recordings. Yobosó is a salsa/Latin jazz quartet out of New Mexico. Their first release, entitled Ya Llegó! (TL-13938.10) really cooks. The 8 minute version of "En Mi Viejo San Juan" is a gem, as is "Descarga Yobosó." Orquesta Broadway's Orquesta Broadway Loves New York (TL-14005.10) is a charanga by this veteran band. Flute, strings and brass typify this dance release.

There are three new instructional videos that have to be mentioned. Giovanni Hidalgo, the conguero from another planet, has an instructional called Conga Virtuoso (TL-13827.30). He guides you through the development of the tumbao from one to three drums. This fantastic video features Changuito on timbales, Ray Romero on bongos as well as Ignacio Berroa, Eric Figueroa, John Benitez, Danilo Pérez, and David Sanchez. Afro-Cuban rhythms as well as rhythms of Puerto Rico (Jíbaro, Bomba, Plena, Jubá, Xicá, Cuembé, Holendes) are covered. Section three is reserved for advanced techniques and special exercises: singles, doubles, ruffs, combinations. This video is bilingual and 90 minutes long. For you drum set players, Ignacio Berroa has put out Mastering the Art of Afro-Cuban Drumming (TL-13828.30). He's played with Dizzy Gillespie, Batacumbele, Michel Camilo, Tito Puente and others. The clave and its subtleties are carefully reviewed. Folkloric rhythms (bembe, rumba, cascara, bombo, abakwa) as well as dance rhythms (salsa, cha cha cha, danzón, son montuno) are covered and feature full band implementation with Giovanni Hidalgo, Danilo Pérez, David Sanchez, John Benitez and a demonstration of ssongó rhythms by the master, Changuito.

Speaking of Changuito, when he was in New York a few months ago he did an extended jam with Giovanni Hidalgo. It was recorded on video and we will have it in June.

Dancers, and would-be dancers, do not feel left out. Eddie Torres, one of the most recognized names in Latin dance circles has put out a dance instructional call Eddie Torres Teaches Salsa Nightclub Style (TL-13829.30). It features Oscar Hernandez's band (with Eddie Montalvo on congas). Two of Tito Puente's classics are included: "Fiesta A La King" and "Mambo Gozon," as well as original material by Hernandez. This is supposed to be the definitive Latin dance instructional.

My friend Raul Rico just called to let me know of the new Estrada Brothers CD called About Time (TL-14139.10). It's scheduled for release the end of April and, according to Raul, has a very Cal Tjader sensibility. We look forward to hearing it.

Now for the real news. My daughter Rosa Marlene was born on February 18th and she's doing great. 8 lbs. 2 oz. if you must know.

Later - Bruce

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