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09/30/99

A discographic profile of the talented Puerto Rican pianist, arranger, producer and veteran musical director of Sonora Ponceña.


Profile: Papo Lucca by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com)

LUCCA, Papo (and Sonora Ponceña) (b Enrique Arsenio Lucca Jr., '46, Ponce, Puerto Rico) Exceptional pianist (also plays vibes, tres, synthesiser, flugelhorn, percussion), one of salsa's most ingenious arrangers and producers, composer, musical director of Sonora Ponceña (Son Orchestra of Ponce) since '68. His father Enrique 'Quique' Lucca organised two trumpet-led Orquesta Internacional '44, renamed Sonora Ponceña '54 for its first recording; Puerto Rico's longest running musical institution has never ossified, adding a third trumpet '50s, and a fourth mid-'70s; Quique still led the band in the '90s. A child prodigy, Papo began playing conga at age four; started attending Ponce's Free School of Music at age six, studied piano, reeds and theory. Made debut with Ponceña '54; appeared on Ponce-born singer Ruth Fernández's TV show mid-'50s; made recording debut '57 with Ponceña backing bolero stars Felipe Rodríguez and Davilita (Pedro Ortiz Dávila) on Al Compás de Las Sonoras on Marvela; wrote first arrangement for band c. '61; attended the University of P. R. and P. R.'s Conservatory of Music.

Ponceña's albums (all on Inca label) incl. Hachero Pa' Un Palo , Fuego En El 23! (both title tracks were hit covers of Arsenio Rodríguez classics), Algo De Locura (incl. big hit 'Acere Ko' penned by Patato and Totico), Navidad Criolla (Xmas LP reissued '78), Desde Puerto Rico a Nueva York and Sonora Ponceña '69-72, all with band sporting a three trumpet section; lead singers were Luigi Texidor (b Guillermo Texidor, '40, P. R.; joined band '63) and Tito Gómez (b Humberto Luis Gómez, '48, Juana Díaz, P. R.; joined '68); their '70s LPs were made in NYC, prod. by Larry Harlow '71-5. Trumpeter Joe Rodríguez took Gómez and percussionist Miguel 'Mikey' Ortiz with him '73 to form La Terrifica, new band debuted with LP Terrifica '74 on International prod. by Harlow; Gómez departed, briefly joined Ray Barretto's band, made solo album Para Gozar Borinquen '77 on Inca prod. by Harlow. Miguelito Ortiz replaced Gómez on Sabor Sureño '74; '75 saw 'best of' album Lo Mejor De Sonora Ponceña , title tracks and other hits from '69-72 albums, and Tiene Pimienta (with another hit title track) arr. by Papo. On Musical Conquest '76 Papo arr. and cond., co-prod. with Louie Ramírez, with Luis "Perico" Ortiz as mus. dir. (incl. big hit "El Pio Pio" written by Mexican duo Lobo y Melón); ex-La Terrifica lead singer Yolanda Rivera joined on El Gigante Del Sur '77, with Ramírez as prod., Papo as assistant prod. and arr. (except disco-oriented "Nocturnal," arr. by Perico, who also played trumpet on it); this LP was Texidor's last: he shared lead vocals on Bobby Valentín's Musical Seduction '78 on Bronco, appeared on Puerto Rico All Stars' LPs '76-7, Tito Puente albums Homenaje A Beny More Vols. 1, 2 & 3 '78-9 on Tico, made solo debut with El Negrito del Sabor '79 on Nuestra.

Though presaged earlier, Ponceña's current distinctive style began to crystallize: crisp, lucid, restrained yet swinging, with intricate trumpet textures, on Explorando '78, regarded as one of their best albums, all arr. by Papo, who now took over as producer with trumpets increased from three to four (Papo admits he was inspired by Conjunto Casino, the popular Cuban band of the '40s and '50s); hit track "Jubileo 20" marked band's 20th anniversary, another hit was "Moreno Soy" ("I Am Brown"), Papo's arrangement of "Naci Moreno" ("Born Brown," performed by Texidor on Valentín's Musical Seduction ): a testimony of P. R.'s racially mixed identity. Gómez came back to sing lead, replacing Texidor on this album only; but he sang in the chorus on next LP La Orquesta De Mi Tierra '78, before departing to work with Tito Valentín, La Amistad, Rubby Haddock, Grupo Niche, then went solo again '91. Ponceña joined Celia Cruz on her La Ceiba on Vaya and performed with her in TV film Salsa '79, released hits compilation Energized '79; from '80 they recorded in P. R.: New Heights '80 incl. Dizzy Gillespie's "Night In Tunisia" and Toñito Ledeé (b Salinas, P. R.; d 28 May '86, P. R., in a car accident) joined Yolanda and Ortiz as a lead singer, Papo co-arr. with Elias Lopés.

Unchained Force '80 was dedicated to long-serving band members, trumpeters Ramón A. Rodríguez "El Cordobes" (Tony), Delfin Pérez "El del Café," bassist Antonio Santaella (Tato). Papo arr. Night Raider '81, incl. cover of "Cuestiones De Amor" by composer, arranger, bandleader, pianist Adalberto lvarez (b '48, Havana, Cuba), who then led Son 14; Papo is a devotee of lvarez, so much so that covers of his songs appear on seven out of eight of Ponceña's albums between '81 and '92; his "Soledad" was incl. on Determination '82 (both songs from Son 14's Son Como Son '81 on Areito), which also incl. "Aunque Te Quiero" by Cuban Joseíto González, leader of Orquesta Rumbavana, from their eponymous LP on Areito. Yolanda was replaced by ex-La Terrifica singer Héctor "Pichy" Pérez on Future '84, incl. two lvarez tunes, and Papo played flugelhorn on Woody Shaw's "Woody's Blue." Yolanda moved to Miami, sang in the chorus of Gabino Pampini's band Fuerza Noble, shared lead vocals on Rubby Haddock's Otra Vez! '88 on TTH and Salsa Tropical '90 on Music Village, and fronted Hermanos Rivera Orchestra '90.

They reworked, updated hits incl. 'Jubileo 20' to 'Jubileo 30' on Jubilee '85, on which Ortiz was replaced by Manuel "Mannix" Martínez; the same year two compilations were also issued to mark 30th anniversary. On The Right Track '88 incl. a tribute poem and song to the late Toñito Ledeé; the band embraced the salsa romántica sound on Into The 90's '90 (Papo uses Willie Rosario's disparaging term salsa monga, meaning: "flaccid salsa," to describe romantic salsa), the first made (partly) in their own Pianníssimo Studios, Ponce. Pichy departed '90 for a brief stint with Tommy Olivencia; Ponceña made their UK debut May '91 with Pichy replacement Luisito Carrión, an alumnus of Orquesta Kaffé, Julio "Gunda" Merced's Salsa Fever, La Terrifica, Bobby Valentín and Don Perignon; Carrión sang on Merry Christmas '91, then made his solo debut with Y Ahora Voy Yo! '92 on MP; Pichy returned on Guerreando '92.

Papo's solo project Latin Jazz '93 on Fania had a poor critical reception; '93's NY Salsa Festival at Madison Square Garden celebrated Ponceña's 40th anniversary, they closed the show and were joined by Texidor and Yolanda for a retrospective of their classics. Their 40th anniversary outing Birthday Party '93 was heralded as a return to the standard of their best albums of the '70s and '80s; Texidor and Yolanda rejoined the band on Apretando '95. Solo collaborations with Azuquita (Los Originales '96 on Tonga) and Pete "El Conde" Rodríguez (the bolero set Pete y Papo '96 on Fania) were followed by a guest spot on the somewhat disappointing Papo Lucca y Alfredo de la Fé & El Sexteto Típica de Cuba '97 on Fania. Vocalists on '98 Ponceña comeback On Target on Jerry Masucci Music/ Sony were newcomer Lenny "Leo" Figueroa, Pichy and longstanding members Edwin "Caneca" Rosas and Daniel "Danny" Dávila; instrumental cut "Tanenbaum A La Lucca" was composed and arr. by Puerto Rican keyboardist Israel Tanenbaum, co-prod. and co-arr. on various albums by Colombia's Orquesta Guayacán.

Papo worked in one or more capacities on albums with Cruz, Johnny Pacheco, Ismael Quintana (incl. the notable collaboration Mucho Talento '83 on Vaya), Cheo Feliciano, Justo Betancourt, Ernie Agosto, Adalberto Santiago, Nelson González y su Orquesta Revelación, Los Hermanos Moreno (he prod. their commendable debut No Me Vuelvo Enamorar '87 on W. G. International; reissued on TTH), Glen Vargas, others. Papo replaced Harlow '76 as pianist with Fania All Stars, made his UK debut with them the same year, played on many of their LPs incl. Habana Jam '79 (with live version of "Naci Moreno" sung by Texidor, piano solo by Papo), as well as Puerto Rico All Stars '76 on PRAS (reissued on Combo). He participated in FAS reunion tour '94 to celebrate Fania label's 30th anniversary; he joined an all-star line-up of Puerto Rican artists on De Aquí Pa'lla '94 on emigeba.


-This is a revised version of one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com) for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UK£16.99.

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



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