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Column: Editor's Picks

by Bruce Polin

Okay. If you're reading this that means you must have already received our new '96-'97 catalog. If you haven't, please contact our office. The response to it has been overwhelming. We want to thank all of you who have placed orders recently. Extra special thanks goes out to those of you had trouble getting through on the phone, yet persisted and placed orders anyway. The situation prompted us to install a new phone system with additional lines, as well as additional computers for order taking. It shouldn't be that hard to get through to us now.

Andy Duran leads a big mambo/Latin jazz band in Venezuela. Their latest release is Latin Jazz Club Latin Jazz Club. It has a nice swing and relaxed feel with Alfredo Naranjo on vibes. I like it as well as their first, A Jazzy Latin Beat.

Brazil: A Century of Song is the name of an immense compilation (4 CDs) on the Blue Jackel label. It is well thought out and broken into four parts: Folk & Traditional, Carnaval, Bossa Nova Era, and Música Popular Brasileira. As you know, Descarga doesn't carry many non-Caribbean titles. However, we were so impressed with this collection we couldn't turn it down.

Clave Tres, a band from Puerto Rico led by percussionist Raúl Berrios, has a nice new dance oriented Latin jazz release with folkloric elements. It's called From Africa To The Caribbean, Vol. 1 and is very well done.

One of Rafael Cortijo's best works is now on CD. Ahí Na Má! Put It There], from 1968, features Panamanian vocalist Camilo Azuquita.

The Essence All Stars, featuring Gato Barbieri, Steve Berrios, Andy Gonzalez, Bob James, Mike Mainieri, and Lenny White, have a new Latin jazz release entitled Afro Cubano Chant. This group of veterans has produced some gems here. Listen to the very beautiful "Tania" and see if you agree.

Afficionados of charanga are always looking for material by Gonzalo Fernandez. Bailarín is now on CD and features a 12-1/2 minute version of "Para Cochero" (here called "Yo No Camino Y Cochero").

Habana Secreta is one of the new releases on the Milan label. It features music composed by José María Vitier. Percussion by Tatá Güines and Miguel Angá. Vocalists include Silvio Rodriguez and Miriam Ramos.

One of my favorite Joe Bataan records is also now on CD. Riot! has several numbers now considered classic like the title cut as well as "Muñeca," "What Good Is A Castle," "My Cloud," and "Mambo de Bataan." Johnny Pacheco was the recording director on this release.

Those of you who have interest in the piano music of maestro Ernesto Lecuona must get The Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1 with Thomas Tirino on piano and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Bartos. This is the first CD in what will eventually be a series of five. This comes with a nice liner booklet with notations.

A nice salsa debut is Louis George and The Salsa Gang. Louis George Jr. plays tres. Isidro Infante and Papo Pepín contribute their respective talents on this release.

John Santos and the Coro Folklórico Kindembo have a new folkloric Yoruban release entitled Hacia El Amor]. Special guests include Francisco Aguabella, Israel Cachao López, Orestes Vilato, Rebeca Mauleon and many others.

The Cuban percussionist Manteca had a release out in, I think, the early sixties entitled Ritmo Y Sabor. This was a rhythm section only release that had similar structure to the descargas of the 50s. In fact, the bassist on this recording may be Cachao, but we're not sure. (If anybody out there knows the lineup on this release please call.) We enjoyed listening to this reissue. It has some great grooves although it was obviously taken from an LP (like the classic Patato Y Totico reissue).

The outstanding contemporary Puerto Rican based plena dance band Plena Libre has a new release entitled Cógelo, Que Ahí te Vá!. Another plena band, New York based Pleneros de la 21, has what I think is one of the best releases of the year. Somos Boricuas is authentic, musically rich, and danceable. This one is a must get.

In the 50s and 60s Yma Sumac popularized Incan ceremonial and spiritual songs. Her vocalizations created somewhat of a sensation which appealed to those intrigued by the "exotica." We recently received five reissues from the height of her popularity. Pictured here is the Legend of the Jivaro.

You want some heat, you say? Check out trumpeter Jesus Alemañy's Cubanismo! featuring Alfredo Rodríguez on piano, Carlos Del Puerto on bass, Miguel Anga Diaz and Tatá Güines on percussion, as well as a host of other superlative musicians on this smoker. I highly recommend this release.

We listed The Montuno Sessions in the last issue of the newsletter but it arrived too late to be pictured. These were jam sessions recorded live on the air from Al Angeloro's radio show in the eighties. Featured guests are Charlie Palmieri, Henry Fiol, the Wayne Gorbea All Stars, Charanson and others.

One gorgeous debut release is from New York percussionist Johnny Almendra y Los Jovenes del Barrio. Entitled Evolucionando, this CD encompasses a range of Afro-Cuban styles: comparsa to guaracha to R&B son to cha cha cha and descarga. All are done with finesse. Some special guests include Ronnie Baro, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Dave Chamberlain.

We recently received a shipment of new Cuban material from the Magic Music label. Two of them are Lucrecia's Prohibido, and David Calzado y La Charanga Habanera's 'Pa Que Se Entere la Habana. These seem to go fast, so get your orders in while they last.

Two last minute CDs of note. Mauricio Smith, the highly regarded flautist who can be heard on many, many recordings, has a solo project out entitled Madera. It is a Latin jazz release with a sweet sound revolving, of course, around Smith's flute playing. In addition, we have a terrific reissue of the '72 Willie Rosario release entitled Más Ritmo with Chamaco Rivera on vocals and coro by Yayo El Indio and Adalberto Santiago. This is a great salsa release beginning with "En Bayamon" and ending with "Pan Con Mantequilla." Everything in between is just as good.

In closing, I'll tell you of some important new video releases. Somos Un Solo Pueblo is a remarkable video documenting a major concert held in Puerto Rico last year. It was funded by Banco Popular and brought out some major attractions like Ruben Blades, Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, La India, Cachao,Gilberto Santa Rosa, and Giovanni Hidalgo. There's also a CD release of this concert for audiophiles.

DCI Video is at it again with quality instructional material. New York percussionist Bobby Sanabria (leader of Acensión) has released Getting Started On Congas: Conga Basics. This is an entry-level video for future conga virtuosos. Bobby is one of the most articulate musicians playing today and this video proves it. Look for two additional volumes entitled Conga Fundamental Parts 1 & 2 with special guests like Candido. DCI has also produced a video corresponding to their best selling Funkifying The Clave: Afro Cuban Grooves for Bass and Drums book/CD package. This bi-lingual 90 minute video features Lincoln Goines and Robby Ameen demonstrating the following: Clave and Tumbao, Songo, Guaguancó, Afro-Cuban 6/8, Cha-Cha-Cha, and Mozambique.

Finally, Dancing Hands Music has released Conga Drumming: A Beginner's Video Guide featuring Jorge Bermudez with special appearances by Raul Rekow of Santana and Rosie Lopez Moré from the legendary Tropicana nightclub in Havana.

— Bruce Polin

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