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The New York City Latin boogaloo group.

Profile: The Lebron Brothers

by J.J. Rassler

In an era that brings musical change, often times many artists can get lost in the explosion. As Latin music moved from the Charanga in the early ‘60’s, and just before Salsa came into vogue, the Latin Boogaloo was the thing.

"El Watusi" by Ray Barretto became an instant crossover hit with it’s rhythmic strings and flute melody line. Cal Tjader’s revamp of "Guarchi Guara" sold hundreds of thousands as "Soul Sauce." Mongo Santamaría’s version of the Herbie Hancock tune "Watermelon Man" was heard everywhere. As the soul of Black American music blended with distinct Latin rhythms, countless bands spawned throughout New York City. Joe Cuba’s Sextette scored big with "Bang Bang" and several other tunes. Artists like Johnny Colón and Ricardo Ray made classic recordings. But these are the names that normally come to mind when talking about this musical genre. Other acts like Joey Pastrana, Joe Bataan or the Lebron Brothers had made musical contributions worthy of more than mere mention. So lets re-visit the Lebrons.

The Lebron Brothers consisted of Angel, José, Carlos, Frankie, and Pablo. They provided the vocals and rhythm section of the band. Tenor and alto sax, two trumpets, and timbales rounded out the group. Having been together for some time, it wasn’t until George Goldner of Cotique signed them and dubbed them the Lebron Brothers. Although Goldner was credited with producing their work under the auspices of Jerry Masucci, Johnny Colón has stated in recent interviews that it was actually he who supervised the recordings. This seems quite plausible as the feel of Salsa Y Control has a lot of the same characteristics of Colón’s Boogaloo Blues. The harmonies are street tough and a drag-sway feeling permeates the production. This is what makes this genre distinct.

Beginning with the title song (a moving Són Montuno), José’s piano spurs the band with an insidious passion. Check out Angel’s tune "Bongo Loco," or the moody "Regressa A Mi" with a dripping nocturnal sax solo. But easily etched into life’s soundtrack is "Sabor Tipico." On a hot summer day, when you're walkin’ down the street, this is what should be playing from the windows, full blast.

Salsa Y Control should not be missed, but if you're looking for a good introduction to the band check out The Best of The Lebron Brothers. [Worth the price of the CD just for the great caricature cover art — Ed.] This compilation features several tracks from and including Salsa Y Control as well as nine other red hot tunes that simmer, boil, and burn. "Vacilon" was the single that first turned me on to the band years ago. It sent me rummaging through record bins and flea markets looking for anything else by them. Ah, CD re-issues. They give us the opportunity to check out this tremendous music once again. As spectacular as the colors of twilight is the sound of pre-Salsa ‘60’s Latin music. Just listen.

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