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A discographic profile of the multi-talented band-leader, composer, timbale and vibes player.

Profile: Louie Ramirez

by John Child (


(b 24 Feb. '38, Manhattan, NYC, USA, of Puerto Rican descent; d 7 June '93, Queens, NYC) Played timbales, vibes, keyboards; bandleader, composer; one of NY salsa's most successful and imaginative arrangers and producers; rightly described as 'El Genio de la Salsa' (The Genius of Salsa) and the Quincy Jones of salsa. Studied classical piano from age 7, later attended Juilliard; inspired to become a Latin musician by seeing Noro Morales perform; pro debut '56 on vibes with Joe Loco's quintet (Louie was the cousin of Loco's wife), remained until '59; also played mid-'50s with Vicentico Valdés band. He co-wrote (with Johnny Pacheco) and arranged the '61 Farándula chart-topper 'El Güiro De Macorina' contained on Pacheco's debut LP Pacheco y su Charanga Vol. I '60, the first album on Al Santiago's Alegre label; played timbales on Sabú Martínez's Jazz Espagnole '60 ( second Alegre LP), on LP Latin Jazz Quintet '61 on UA (reissued '90 on Palladium). Band leading debut Introducing Louie Ramírez '64 on Remo was followed by Good News '65 on the new Fania label and Latin Au Go Go '65 on Atco; he led a group called Conjunto Chango and played vibes on Vibes Galorec '66 on Alegre incl. singer Willie Torres; disappointing In The Heart Of Spanish Harlem c ' 67 on Mercury was meant to cash in on the boogaloo and Latin soul fad; Ali Baba '68 (back on Fania) mixed boogaloo, Latin soul and typical numbers, with singers Bobby Marín (English vocals) and Rudy Calzado (Spanish vocals). Played with Charlie Palmieri and Joe Cuba '65-8; teamed up with ex-Ray Barretto singer Pete Bonet (b Santurce, P. R.; singer/ composer/ co-bandleader/ promoter) late '68 to '70 co-led resident 12-piece band at NYC's famed Corso club; duo made LPs The Odds Are On c '69 on Swinger and Pete & Louie/ The Beautiful People c '70 on Fania (recording director: Al Santiago).

In the early '70s Louie Ramírez y Tito Rodríguez: En Algo Nuevo featured the great singer and bandleader on his own TR label (Ramírez became the firm's vice-president); notable Típico '74 on UA featured ex-Charlie Palmieri singer Victor Velázquez, conguero Papo Pepin (b 20 Apr. '48, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico), whose long-term association with Ramírez began in the mid-60s. Became staff producer with Fania '75; president of Alegre stablemate from mid-'70s to early '80s; LPs on Cotique (also part of Fania family) were seminal experiments: innocuous crossover oriented A Different Shade Of Black '76; Louie Ramírez y sus Amigos '78 incl. Latin-jazz 'Salsa Vibes', Beatles songs incl. 'Because' (arr. as a Cuban danzón by Sonny Bravo), major hit 'Paula C' composed/sung by Rubén Blades, other lead singers Azuquita, Adalberto Santiago; Salsa Progresiva '79 incl. 'Latin New York', Jimmy Sabater lead singer on Barry White's song 'Sha-La Means I Love You' (Angela Bofill singing backup), Tito Allen and Ismael Quintana singing lead on others; Salsero '80 incl. Santiago, pianist/ arr./ prod. Isidro Infante (b 12 Aug. '52, Old San Juan, P.R.). Prod. first in successful Noche Caliente series '82 with vocalists Ray de la Paz and José Alberto (latter became major '80s/'90s solo artist - see his entry), LP regarded as genesis of salsa romántica trend; Super Cañonalos con Louie Ramírez '83 on Gigi (reissued as Mi Fruto on Caimán '98) was típico salsa with three trumpets, alto, baritone sax and flute, incl. Infante on piano, impressive voice of de la Paz (ex-member of Conjunto Melao, Guararé and Ray Barretto's band). Ramírez and Infante had sessioned together from late '70s; Ramírez and de la Paz now co-led a band with horn section of four trumpets and featuring Infante and Pepin: Con Caché! '84 on new Caimán label (founded '83 by Sergio Bofill and Humberto Corredor) was slickly prod. salsa that charted high in Billboard 's Latin list, incl. 'Solo Tu Y Yo', salsa version of Bill Withers' 'Just The Two Of Us'; award-winning Alegres y Romanticos '85 and Sabor con Clase! '86 stayed in successful groove; duo joined Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, El Gran Combo, Héctor Lavoe and Rubén Blades on the bill of 10th NY Salsa Festival, Madison Square Garden, Aug. '85.

Meanwhile Ramírez has played on and/or contributed production, arrangements to LPs by scores of important Latin artists since the '70s, incl. many of those named above plus Larry Harlow, Willie Colón, the Fania All Stars, Cheo Feliciano, many more. Ramírez's Caimán finale A Tribute To Cal Tjader '87 with his Latin Jazz Ensemble incl. Paquito D'Rivera on alto, Mario Rivera on flute, tenor and soprano saxes; José Fajardo on flute, all taking solos, and many musicians appearing on Ramírez-Ray de la Paz y su Orquesta LPs; Ramírez prod., played vibes, timbales, synthesiser; composed three tracks, co-arr. with pianist Infante. De la Paz unwisely split '87, fronted session men on lacklustre Estoy Como Nunca on BC Records (reissued on Caimán '98) with Infante; reappeared '90 with Como Tu Quieras on Ralph Mercado's RMM label. Ramírez continued with Louie Ramírez y Super Banda on Faisán, with lead vocalists Tony Vega and Jorge Maldonado; then couple of undistinguished LPs: El Genio '89 on L & T Records, incl. hit 'Salsa Romántica' (wry remodelling of Típico title track), and Louie Ramírez y sus Amigos '90 on new Cache label founded by Alex Masucci (brother of Fania boss Jerry Masucci); back to Latin jazz for award-winning The King Of Latin Vibes '91 on Sugar Records. Reunited with de la Paz on Otra Noche Caliente '92 on RMM, and managed to recreate most of their earlier magic. After two heart attacks and a cerebral haemorrhage, Ramírez ignored medical advise to quit performing '92; while driving along Junction Boulevard in Queens, NYC, Louie pulled over and suffered a third fatal heart attack June '93. Album he and de la Paz had been working on was released under de la Paz's name as Preparate Bailador late '93; Cheo Feliciano and de la Paz dueted on tribute 'Recordando A Louie' in Familia RMM's Combinación Perfecta '93; de la Paz participated in Familia RMM en Vivo '94 and Gozando! '96 on Asefra by Mascara Salsera's Gold Stars.

Related articles:
Profile: Louie Ramirez Remembered
by Al Santiago 07/01/93

-This is one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child ( for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UKú16.99.

They are published on the Descarga website by kind permission of Mr. Donald Clarke.

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