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Roberto Faz, Saludos a Roberto Faz CD

Review: Roberto Faz — El Cantante Idolo Cubano Y Su Orquesta

by Bobby Sanabria

Not many of today’s salseros know who Roberto Faz was, but the late Cuban singer was definitely a great one and was an influence on many New York based singers such as the Tito Puente alumni Santos Colón. Faz began his career in the 1940’s with Cuba’s famed Conjunto Casino. Expanding on the two trumpet concept of the late 1930’s which was made popular by Arsenio Rodriguez and others, the Conjunto Casino would also embrace the modern line writing concept of mambo and modernize the típico sound by adding a third trumpet opening up more harmonic possibilities for its arrangers. This three trumpet modern conjunto sound would later be adopted by such New York groups like that of Ray Barretto in the early ‘70’s.

Faz, for his part, was the continuation of a select group of vocalists beginning with Miguelito Valdez in the ‘30’s and culminating with Beny Moré in the ‘50’s and Tito Rodriguez in the ‘60’s. Cantante’s were well versed in all of the romantic bolero repertoire but the cantante totales could also deal as sonero’s (improvisational singers of Cuba’s són style). Thus they were combination crooners and funksters who were revered for their versatility in interpreting a romantic melody or an uptempo guaracha.

Faz hailed from the Guanabacoa region of Havana and also became known for being a light skinned, or, for lack of a better word, white Cuban who could sing són. This Seeco recording exemplifies Faz’s rugged swing and romantic side. Dominican composer Alvaro Carrillo’s classic bolero-són "Sabor A Mi" opens up with Faz interpreting the melody almost like a guapa-cha (fast cha-cha) in close knit three part harmony with famed coro (background vocal) singers Rolito and Reyes. Faz's vocal is solo on the bridge of the tune and the trumpet choir does some beautiful ensemble playing. "Nadie Baila Como Yo" is a swinging Son Montuno with Faz’s voice featured soaring over the brass with the arrangement breaking into "Dile A Catalina" and "Quimbombo Que Resvala" — two of Cuba’s most classic sónes. "La Tumba Brava" features Conjunto Casino's conguero Jaroco with the clean snap crackle and pop sound that is associated with players like Tata Güines. "En Cadenas" is simply a smokin’ guaracha/mambo. The chorus which states “I don’t want to die in chains” is used by Faz as an after-burner, providing him with the fuel to deliver the tension/release only one who has lived the són can deliver.

The classic "Jamaicuba" or "Jamaiquino" is another feature for Jaroco on congas followed by "Mambo Con Cha-Cha" which features Faz’s all-star band (as all of the great singer-bandleaders of the day, Faz featured his band on particular tunes) on a short but furious double time mambo section. Two classic boleros follow. "Olvida El Pasado" and "Comprension" (one of Faz’ biggest hits composed by Casino’s bassist Cristobal Dobal) showcase Faz in solo voice and in the close knit harmony style which was a technique all singers of the past had to master. Faz’s phrasing is something to study, capturing the essence of the Cuban guajiro’s lamentful experiences.

"Potaje" (a synonym for noodle soup) is a potpourri of some of Cuba’s most classic guarachas featuring "A Si Na Ma," "Amalia Batista," "Bochi Pluma Na Ma" and "Donde Vas Domitila." This is followed up by "Rumba Pa’ Los Rumberos" — another uptempo number that goes into overdrive when Faz explodes in the montuno section. Pianist Pepe Delgado’s classic bolero "Dueño De Mi Corazón" features Faz again in a romantic setting with his famed articulation clearly stating the poetry of the melody. As a final salute to Cuba from Faz, his own Conga de Comparsa (carnival conga rhythm) "Escucha Mi Ritmo" (listen to my rhythm) closes the album featuring the drummers in full but abbreviated force.

The sub-title of this album, El Cantanto Idolo Cubano (The Idolized Cuban Singer), was not farfetched or simply hype. Roberto Faz was a seasoned veteran singer/composer who heavily influenced the vocal stylings used in today’s interpretation of the Cuban són(Salsa). In addition, he was a revered romanticist who bolero composers would seek out to interpret their melodies. This album is a must for students and lovers of Cuban vocal styles. The great arrangements and playing featured throughout are a testimony to the musicianship of the day. A classic album for the older generation, a party album for dancers, and a master class for students of the music all rolled into one is now available in CD technology. What more can you ask for? ¡Que viva Roberto Faz!

Saludos a Roberto Faz

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