Column: Editor's Picks
by Bruce Polin
Those of you who pay attention to details have probably noticed that this issue is somewhat late. "Really?" you say, "I wasn't aware." But, yes, it is late. However, I do have an excuse. We have been concentrating all of our energies into putting the finishing touches on our new 1996/97 catalog. It is done, I'm happy to say. It's being printed as you read this (assuming that you're reading this within a few days of receiving it). You, lucky newsletter subscribers, will be getting this massive 200 pager for free within a few weeks. Enjoy it.
The Caiman All-Stars have a new CD out entitled Descarga in New York (TL-14382.10). This is a really nice project featuring Alfredo Valdés Jr, Chocolate, Daniel Ponce, Andy Gonzalez, Jimmy Bosch, Mike Collazo, etc.
Reissue-land has brought us Andy Harlow's El Campesino (TL-14478.10). Andy is Larry's brother. He plays sax, flute and vibes. Lots of talent appears on this CD, including Barry Rogers on trombone and Cachete Maldonado on tumba. Ray Barretto's Hard Hands (TL-14596.10) is finally out. Vocals by Adalberto Santiago. Salsoul (TL-14766.10), the mid-70s Joe Bataan release is now on CD. It includes a bonus track entitled "Continental Square Dance." Vocalist/percussionist Virgilio Marti, who died just a few months ago, had a classic called Saludando A Los Rumberos. Now on CD (TL-14674.10), it featured Andy and Jerry Gonzalez, Ray Romero, Paquito Pastor, Yomo Toro and others. A must get.
The 1970s also gave us a string of releases by Tony Pabón y La Protesta, a no-nonsense salsa band that introduced a young vocalist named Nestor Sanchez. We have five of these early CDs now. El Maestro Israel Cachao Lopez has two new items on CD, old and new. The old item is Dos (TL-14733.10), another important release from the Salsoul label. This one features Julito Collazo, Totico, Gonzalo Fernandez, El Negro Vivir, Chocolate, Roberto Torres, Pupi Legarretta, Charlie Palmieri and many others. A fantastic record. Okay, speaking of fantastic records, you have to pick up Cachao's Master Sessions Vol. 2 (TL-14476.10). This is a pristine project and contains some of the finest examples of Afro-Cuban grooves. With Francisco Aguabella, Richie Flores, Nelson Gonzalez, Paquito D'Rivera, Felo Barrio, Rolando Laserie(!) and many others.
Qbadisc has released Lo Mejor De Cesar Pedroso (TL-14775.10). Pedroso, piano player for Los Van Van, has composed many of their best songs. Many top Cuban singers took part in this project. A Charanga '76 release entitled El Cafe de Hialeah (TL-14434.10) is one for you charanga-philes. Chocolate y Amigos is now on CD (TL-14677.10). The amigos are Sergio George, Andy Gonzalez, Patato Valdez, Francisco Valdes Jr, Mario Rivera, and Mario Grillo (Machito's son).
Conjunto Clasico has released Clasico de Nuevo (TL-14610.10) with Ray Castro and David Navedo on vocals. The Cuban band Orquesta Cumbre de Pinar del Rio has a release out called Si! (TL-14624.10). The CD was produced by the Global Music Centre in Helsinki, Finland. It's almost 70 minutes long with some very interesting vocalizations. Grupo Ilu Aña has put out Sacred Rhythms (TL-14699.10) produced in part by percussionist Michael Spiro. This is a release of traditional santeria cantos to the orishas and has great liner notes. It is reviewed in this issue as is the Smithsonian Folkways release of Sacred Rhythms of Cuban Santeria (TL-14480.10).
Gonzalo's father, Guillermo Rubalcaba, is the leader of Charanga Típica in Cuba . The release Danzoneando/Vivencias (TL-14594.10) is a must for this genre. It ends with the very popular "Pare Cochero." Grupo Oriza follows their first release (Yo Quiero Mi Son) with Requiem to Felix Chappottin (TL-14673.10). I liked the first and I like this one, too. I have very limited quantities of Guaco Es Guaco, the very interesting Venezuelan salsa band.
With Friends For Friends (TL-14419.10) is the brand new release of Wilfredo Stephenson's Swedish band Hot Salsa. The release has a very Afro-Cuban sound with material by Los Papines, Aragón, Bebo Valdéz, etc. There is also a homage to the late great Dr. Vernon Boggs who was the conduit of Latin music between the U.S. and Europe. Humberto Ramirez keeps getting better and better. His new release, Portrait of a Stranger (TL-14599.10), is a dynamite salsa/Latin jazz release with some very special guests (Gilberto Santa Rosa, Marvin Santiago, Tony Vega). This sizzles. Roberto Roena has a new 2-CD set out, En Vivo Desde Bellas Artes (TL-14769.10). The Puerto Rico All Stars, also salsa veterans, have a new release entitled De Regreso (TL-14504.10) which is getting a lot of airplay. It has a nice version of the classic "Cuban Fantasy."
Speaking of veterans, Willie Colón has a new release out called Vuelvo Otra Vez (TL-14743.10). This just came out as we were going to press and the cuts that I heard were hot salsa numbers. Sounds good, Willie. Some vintage charanga material from the '50s has been released on Seeco. This is Orq. America del '55 (TL-14499.10) and Estrellas Cubanas (TL-14627.10). It has very good sound for material of this era. Recorded in Cuba.
More Than Mambo (TL-14442.10) is a terrific 2-CD compilation with track by track insights by Andy Gonzalez and Manny Oquendo for Verve records. This is a kind of historical overview of Afro-Cuban jazz. There's material from the 40s though the 60s on this release. Arsenio Rodriguez, Machito, Patato, Eddie Palmieri, Gillespie with Chano Pozo, Noro Morales, Chico O'Farrill and a whole slew of others. Highly recommended. Some fantastic early Tito Puente can be found on The King of Cha Cha Mambo (TL-14644.10). Eighteen tracks from 1952-55 with vocals primarily by the late Vicentico Valdés are on this Caney release. Poncho Sanchez has released his long awaited homage to his mentor, the late Cal Tjader, entitled, appropriately, Soul Sauce (TL-14464.10). Pucho and His Latin Soul Brothers have a new release called Rip A Dip (TL-14658.10). It's an extremely enjoyable upbeat Latin jazz recording opening with the unlikely and very funky "Sex Machine." This is great stuff with titles like "Greasy Greens," "Hot Barbecue," and "Ritmo Nueva New York." Get it.
Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band released Pensativo (TL-14429.10). This is their second release on Fantasy. Fantasy should be commended for their support of Latin jazz. They have also released Mongo Returns (TL-14657.10), Mongo Santamaria's latest, featuring Oscar Hernandez, Hilton Ruiz, Louis Bauzó, Johnny Almendra, etc. with Marty Sheller as acting conductor. A.J. Diaz has put out Carnaval (TL-14711.10) with many special guests such as Sonny Bravo, Hilton Ruiz, Bobby Rodriguez, Steve Berrios, Nicky Marrero, Tito Puente, Miton Cardona and others. Malo fans take note that there is a new release on GNP entitled Señorita (TL-14506.10) sans Jorge Santana.
A new release by Septeto Habanero entitled 75 Years Later (TL-14611.10) has been put out by Corason. Traditional Son-Cubano rarely has stretched beyond three minutes, but here much of the material is in the 6-7 minute rage. Nice. Art Webb: The Prophet (TL-14720.10) is the new release from Shades of Jade, Bill Laster's West Coast band. Bobby Matos and His Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble have a high impact production entitled Chango's Dance (TL-14428.10) on Cubop records. A very nice version of "Manteca" is on this.
Not many people know of Bebo More, the son of legendary Cuban vocalist Beny More. Bebo is following in his father's footsteps with La Leyenda Continua (TL-14466.10). He has a style not unlike his dad's. A nice release. Green Linnet/Xenophile is continuing to expand their catalog of Latin material. Las Manos De Oro (TL-14416.10) is the title of their Yomo Toro release. The near-legendary cuatro player features a number of styles on this beautiful release. Montuno continues to reissue their fine recordings. Zaperoko (Cosa De Locos, 1983, TL-14603.10) led by Edwin Feliciano was one of the first New York bands to incorporate songo rhythms. Armando Sanchez y Su Conjunto Son De La Loma's Así Empezó La Cosa (TL-14600.10) is a really nice release beginning with a great version of Rudy Calzado's "Y Yo Ganga."
Bobby Valentin's company, Bronco, has released a 2-CD set called Soneros Con Clave (TL-14794.10) featuring an all-star lineup of Puerto Rican salseros. This is a mix of new material as well as some pre-released cuts. It's a true picture of the salsa that's being produced on the island. An added bonus is the enclosed booklet that has bios and discographies for each of the singers. A nice touch. Bobby, by the way, is one of the nicest guys in the business.
Two new videos have been added to our catalog. The first is a profile of Francisco Aguabella, the legendary Cuban percussionist now residing on the West Coast, entitled Sworn To The Drum (TL-14764.30). This hard to find item is reviewed in this issue. The other video is an instructional tape from LP entitled From Afro-Cuban to Rock (TL-14507.30) featuring the Santana rhythm section (Raul Rekow, Karl Perazzo, Billy Johnson, Rebeca Mauleon, and Myron Dove). It's "the first video to demonstrate the implementation of the rhythms of Cuba into non-traditional settings" according to the cover notes. We'll have this reviewed in an upcoming issue.
Oh, one other thing...Happy New Year.
Bruce "Jeez, I hate the winter" Polin