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Yves Billon, Salsa in New York: Opus 1 Video

Review: Choice Cuts

by J.J. Rassler

This is a documentary, filmed by the Frenchman Yves Billon, shot on the streets of New York's barrio and Lower East Side very recently. There are shots of street fairs with bands like Sonora Ponceña performing. There’s recent footage from the (new) Palladium with José Alberto “El Canario.” Also to be seen is Manny Oquendo and Conjunto Libre at Club Broadway. This is classic stuff and my only complaint would be that these clips be lengthier. There are incredible interviews with Larry Harlow, Izzy Sanabria, Henry Fiol, and Cheo Feliciano — as well as performance footage of him performing 20 years earlier.

Salsa, Bomba and Plena, and New York City Jazz are here discussed, dissected, reconstructed, pontificated, demonstrated , and worshiped — by those who create it and live it. There’s also dynamic footage from the essential 1971 film Our Latin Thing and the Fania All Stars legendary performance at the Cheetah. Seen in rehearsal and performance are such legends as Hector Lavoe, Santos Colón, Ray Barretto, and Pete “El Conde” Rodiguez. Supremo caliente. Wild crowd shots with frenzied dancing, hot, hot pants and lapels you could land a plane on...oh the ‘70’s! It’s all too much!

What you get here is best described by a spectator in a street scene towards the end of the near hour long film. He looks defiantly at the camera and boasts, “La Salsa, Numero Uno." Agreed.

Salsa in New York: Opus 1

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