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Column: Editor's Picks

by Bruce Polin

I'd like to start this column by thanking Mr. 'Little Ray' Romero. When I visited his home to photograph him for this issue's feature I was greeted by a friendly, gracious, honest and warm person with a good sense of humor. And, after that, I met Ray. No, seriously, of course it's Ray I'm talking about. Thanks Ray. You're proof that years of experience and virtuosity does not necessarily result in a large ego. Happy birthday, too.

I'd also like to thank Nelson Rodriguez who had so nicely acknowledged the birth of my daughter in his column in Latin Beat magazine. Nelson, by the way, has always been a strong supporter of Descarga from way back, long before he became a big-wig at RMM. He's a real mensch.

Thanks also to writer Mark Holston, who has firmly established himself as a reviewer muy importante en la musica Afro-Latina. Mark has been very generous in mentioning us as a source for material. He contributes to Jazziz, New York Latino, Hispanic and Américas magazines.

Thanks, too, go to Judy Faber who should be applauded for her efforts in establishing the world's first digital salsa magazine on the Internet's World Wide Web. Those of you equipped with computer and modem should immediately check out this site called Little Judy's Latin Music On Line, If you live in or around New York or are planning a visit, you'll find it especially helpful because of the complete club listings included.

Here's the address:

Make note of the following CDs introduced since last issue: Chano Montes's Recuerdan a Chappottin (TL-14105.10 ), a gorgeous reissue on SAR. Those with a penchant for the tres should get this quick. Los Kimbos' Hoy y Mañana (TL-14061.10). Los Kimbos, timbalero Orestes Vilato's band, have always had somewhat of a cult following. This is a great reissue. There's a new release by Ismael Miranda and Junior Gonzales called Cantar O No Cantar (TL-14057.10 ). Special guest is Larry Harlow.

NG La Banda have a new release from Cuba called La Bruja (TL-14128.10). Juan Luis Cortés fans check it out. The new reissue of Tito Puente's Y Parece Bobo (TL-14062.10) has created quite a stir. Read Al Santiago's column for details. I thought this was a terrific reissue even before I was aware of the...go read Al's column.

I've gotten requests for years for anything on CD by Cuban singer Francisco "Pancho" Fellové. Well, I finally have one, entitled Goza Mi Ritmo , thanks to BMG's Tropical Series. Caribe Productions in Cuba have released two 2-volume retrospectives. One on Los Van Van called 25 Años...Y Seguimos Ahí! (TL-14144.10 & TL-14145.10) and one on Elio Revé Y Su Charangon (TL-14165.10 & TL-14166.10). These are important releases that encompass the cream of these two band's output.

The Very Best of Beny Moré, Vol 2 (TL-14066.10) will soon be my best seller for this great, great Cuban vocalist. The reasons are the selected titles, which are top notch, and the sound quality, which is attributed to newly found master tapes. Valentin y Su Grupo's Gente de Barrio (TL-14129.10) is high energy Cuban salsa with outstanding musicians. If you like NG check this band out. Héctor Valentin's voice is one of the best from the island. I was impressed. This is my Salsa Pick of the Month.

Armando Orefiche was one of Cuba's most successful composers, pianists and bandleaders. He, along with Jaruco Vazquez, was the leader of the Lecuona Cuban Boys. Armando and his brother Chiquito left that band to organize a new band, the Havana Cuban Boys. This CD highlights their hits of the '40s and '50s. Fantasy has reissued Mongo Santamaria's Greatest Hits (TL-14133.10). It features Chombo Silva, Rolando Lozano, Pupi Legarretta, Francisco Aquabella, Armando Peraza, Willie Bobo, Rudy Calzado and others. Tip of the hat to Fantasy for always including extra tracks to reissues. Again, see Al Santiago's article about companies who don't do that.

Marc Anthony, New York salsa's current shining star, has a new release entitled Todo A Su Tiempo (TL-14134.10). He can definitely sing. He needs substantial material to match his ability. He should hook up with some old-school arrangers who don't care about fitting the tunes into a radio-ready format. I'd like to hear him do some son montunos or guarachas con sabor.

Charanga fans this is for you. We've got a lot that came in. First off there are two more SAR reissues, Charanga Casino (TL-14157.10) and Charanga de La 4's Se Pegó...! (TL-14156.10) . Aficionados know that the SAR catalog is far from completely transferred to CD. These two titles are welcome. Orquesta Aliamen, the Cuban charanga band has a new release called Pa' Los Malos Ojos (TL-14047.10) and is the first "new" Aliamen to reach our shores in a long time. West Side Latino is back in action. They've released a suite of three best-of charanga reissues. One is Super Típica de Estrellas (TL-14173.10) which boasts one of the most impressive line ups you can find. Here's just a partial list: Eddie Drennon, Alfredo De La Fé, Chombo Silva, Pupi Legarreta, Nelson Gonzalez, Candido Camero, Orestes Vilato, Chihuahua Martinez, Sonny Bravo, Patato Valdez, Nicky Marrero, etc. Need I say more? The other two CDs in the suite are by two of the most venerable charanga orquestas: Típica Ideal and Orquesta Broadway. Sonido Solido (TL-1466.10) is not entirely charanga, but it's got great charanga on it. Besides, it's one of my favorite records period. Patato Valdes, Alfredo Rodriguez and Totico are at the heart of this little masterpiece.

O-kay Latin jazzistas, it's your turn. Afrocuba is hard to categorize. They have a hard-core following. They combine elements of Afro-Cuban folklore with jazz. An incredibly tight ensemble with technically superb musicianship, Afrocuba can at times be reminiscent of Irakere. Sometimes they sound really "out there" if you know what I mean. This is music for musicians and serious listeners. Two releases we are carrying are Acontecer (TL-14180.10) and Eclecticism.

Two more Fantasy reissues (they have been busy) are by the renowned vibist Cal Tjader. CT's Greatest Hit's (TL-14132.10) and Descarga (TL-14122.10). Cal fans have a lot of listening to do. If you're new to Tjader, do check out the greatest hits CD, it's well thought out and really cooks. Speaking of Cal Tjader, The Estrada Brothers have released About Time (TL-14139.10) which has a very Tjader sensibility. They even do a nice rendition of Tjader's big hit, "Guachi Guara." I, personally, am a sucker for George Shearing so the inclusion of "Lullaby of Birdland" was a nice surprise. See Alfredo Cruz's review in this issue.

I've mentioned the Tito Puente reissue, but here's a brand new release entitled Tito's Idea (TL-14119.10)). It's a really nice release with a new version of Puente's own "Asia Minor." This is a good dance oriented release with plenty of that Puente flair. He constantly proves that his arranging is the reason why he is El Rey.

Victor Mendoza's This Is Why is a lovely (second) release that revolves around Mendoza's finesse on vibes. Check out "Mambo de La Luna" which is dedicated to Cachao. Liner notes by our own Alfredo Cruz. Qbadisc has released Nueva Vision (TL-14059.10), the classic Emiliano Salvador recording from the '70s. This is a great record with many different nuances of Cuban music ranging from dance stuff to jazz. With Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D'Rivera and Jorge Varona, all former members of Irakere. Vocals by the great artists Bobby Carcasses and Pablo Milanes.

Tokyo Debut (TL-14138.10) is Art Pepper's live recording in Japan from 1977. Some straight-ahead material as well as Latin flavored material brought to light by Cal Tjader and Poncho Sanchez. Finally, Arturo Sandoval has a brand new release entitled Latin Train (TL-14200.10). I'm happy to say that there's some real sabor packed in these tracks. Special guests include Celia Cruz, Oscar D'Leon and Luis Enrique. A fine release. Check out "La Guarapachanga," "Waheera," "Candela (Yo Sí Como Candela)" and "Orula," all beauties rooted in Cuba.

I'm logging off now. By the way, happy summer to all of you. Go out and enjoy some music. There's probably something free going on in your area this weekend.

— Bruce Polin, Ringleader

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