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Rebeca Mauleón, Salsa Guidebook for Piano and Ensemble Book

Review: Salsa Guidebook

by Diane Gordon

In liner notes of Tito Puente’s 100th album, Bill Cosby chides his friend for not asking the famous comedian to play on any of his recordings. That Puente is a stern task master as a band leader is no secret. So the fact that Puente has commissioned Rebeca Mauléon to compose and arrange for him, and has also performed and recorded with her should tell you a little about the young pianist.

Salsa Guidebook for Piano and Ensemble, a 249 page handbook for musicians written by Mauleón, is nothing short of a masterpiece. Though it is a technical guide for putting together a music ensemble, it is not necessary to be a musician to appreciate the depth and accuracy of her research. She leaves no stone unturned in exploring the complexities of Latin music.

The heart of the book is hands-on notation for putting the music together, but that’s just the beginning. She includes chapters on the instruments and instrumentation of Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican ensembles, the profuse scores of style from són to songo. Best of all is a chapter on clave, the elusive, yet central pulse of the music.

Mauleón put years of research into this dense and authoritative work, and includes numbers of historical photos, a detailed glossary, discography, and bibliography. Her endorser's include Carlos Santana, who calls her “a true treasure of knowledge and information about the world of Afro-Cuban music.”

Anyone who loves Latin music can not help but notice how little has been written about this rich musical tradition. The Salsa Guidebook for Piano and Ensemble fills an enormous gap. Sonny Bravo, Tito Puente’s pianist, pretty much sums it up when he writes, “This will be the Salsa ‘bible’ for years.” Bravo to Rebeca Mauleón for accomplishing this Herculean task!

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