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Alfredo Rodriguez, Totico, Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Sonido Solido - Alfredo, Patato, Totico CD

Review: Choice Cuts

by Bobby Sanabria

Take three of Cuba's best musicians, pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, vocalist rumbero Totico, and master conguero Carlos "Patato" Valdez, put them together in the studio and the results are nothing less than the pure Afro-centric funk that is Cuban music with solid sound.

The opening solo is provided by Alfredito's son-montuno. "Monsieur José," which deals with a man who wants to learn French (from Monsieur José) so he can "rap" with his girlfriend. (Alfredito, by the way, resides in France) Luisito Ayala's lead vocal is clear and to the point — but with the inherent callejero (street) soul that separates him from the current flavor of the month crop of salsa romantica singers. Opening in a major key the tune's final destination is the montuno (vamp) set up in a minor tonality for Karla Pulls' beautifully concise flute solo, and back to the major tonality for Patato's conga solo showcasing his unique melodic style, and ending with fellow Cuban Roberto Rodriguez on trumpet who brings the tune to it's climax.

It should be noted that elements of the conjunto (small band with brass) and charanga (flute and strings) styles are interwoven in perfect symbiosis throughout the recording.

"Quimbobo Con Salsa," a composition by the renowned Cuban sonero/scat singer Francisco Fello Bey is an uptempo guaracha which features Eugenio "Totico" Arango's vocal talents. A much respected rumbero (singer, dancer, and drummer of rumba), Totico melds his style beautifully within the context of the son tradition proving the symbiotic relationship both mediums have. "El Yerbero" (the Herbalogist), is another example of a combination of styles (in this case son, danzón and mambo). Although the strings and piano are technically out of tune, this can be considered a minor flaw to be blamed on the producers and does not detract from Ayala's funky vocals. Pull's flute solo and Afredito's virtuoso piano improvisation which, although short in length, represents the entire history of Cuban piano style and proves he is probably the most underrated voice on this instrument and deserves wider recognition.

This CD features the talents of Carlos "Patato" Valdez on the guaguancó/rumba "Dicelo Patato" (Say It Patato) as singer and conguero stating the melody. The montuno features Totico in his medium as gallo (lead vocal in Rumba) improvising. Tactical air support is provided by Nicky Marrero on timbales, Andy Gonzalez on bass, Alfredito on piano on this and throughout the recording with the addition of Tomas "Choqui" Lopez Jr. on bongo and bell on some other cuts. The final blow is given by Alfredito's majestic piano intro on "Para Africa Traigo Mi Son" (For Africa I Bring My Son), a tribute to the motherland of rhythm. This rugged Son Montuno features Totico in the Són style again and his improvisations paint a beautiful picture of some of Africa's major cities and how we are all related to our often neglected "mother", Again Pull's flute provides a brief interlude but it is Alfredito's piano solo which provides a "clinic" on how to play Cuban style piano. The late great Roberto Rodriguez closes on trumpet.

Sonido Solido provides what it's title states, solid sound in the Cuban tradition. 'Nuff said.

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