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Ismael Miranda, "Cantar O no Cantar," CD, TL-14057.10
Descarga Boricua II, "Abrazate," CD, TL-15225.10
Al DeLory, "Floreando," CD, TL-15296.10
Ray Barretto & New World Spirit, "My Summertime," CD, TL-15031.10

Review: Four from Vicky Sola

by Vicky Sola

Ismael Miranda & Junior Gonzalez Cantar O No Cantar (Asefra1003) TL-14057.10

If, God forbid, your casa is ever on fire, and, through the pouring, black smoke, you fling the door open to see a red-clad fireman (looking, perhaps, like Orlando Marin) pointing a hose at your abode, this CD is one to grab as you flee! (It’s easy to spot quickly, as Ismael Miranda and Junior Gonzalez are both wearing bright red, but, like Orlando, these two are not putting out any fires.)

Most likely, Ismael Miranda learned to cook growing up in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City. Enter chef Junior Gonzalez, and they have to add four more burners, possibly overload the circuits, and, hey, maybe these two guys started the fire!

The flames burn on for almost three-quarters of an hour, through eight tracks. The conflagration is fed by superb arrangements by notables Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Angel Fernandez, Eric Figueroa, Louis Garcia, and Isidro Infante. And, Julia Child’s got nothing on los músicos, either. From Puerto Rico’s studios, they include Miranda veteran pianist Luis Quevedo, timbalero Charlie Sierra, tres player Louis Garcia, and trumpeter Elias Lopez to name just a few. The recording cast from New York features pianists Infante, the legendary Larry Harlow, Lucho Cueto, bassist Johnny Torres, string sensation Yomo Toro, conguero Papo Pepin, trumpeter Hector “Bomberito” Zarzuela, and trombonist Lewis Khan to drop a few names.

In my humble opinion, this CD personifies salsa the way it should be, and I found that I had marked all eight entirely danceable selections.

Los dos cantantes team up on the first number, the title track, and they alternate on following tunes. Miranda and Gonzalez reunite on the last track, “Tanto Andar,” which positively combusts and implodes as Larry Harlow’s blacks and whites make giant sparks fly.

If these guys are pyromaniacs, I love ‘em.

Descarga Boricua II Abrazate (RMM82020) Double CD Set TL-15225.10

They’re back! Fran’ Ferrer and his cast of incredibles from La Isla Del Encanto make their long awaited return with this double set.

This follow-up to the much acclaimed Ésta, Sí Va! (Tierrazo TR15A/B) offers Latin jazz, “straight ahead” salsa, and some outstanding vocal arrangements. Descarga Boricua salutes Spain with “Controversia Catalana (Barcelona),” they move in a different direction with their tribute to Mexico, “Salon Mexico,” and “Esa Mujer” is already being touted as a club hit.

“Soñadores” is a ten minute instrumental which features great flute work by Nestor Torres and keyboard playing by Luis Quevedo of Ismael Miranda fame. I’ve received a lot of positive listener feedback and requests for that number on my radio program. Also popular is the J.P. Torres arrangement of “Candela...Que Le Den,” (the Rodolfo Cárdenas composition done recently by Los Van Van).

Jerry Medina, Wichi Camacho, Carlos Camacho, Martin Nieves, and the man responsible for the arrangement, Tito Valentín, perform an absolutely electrifying a cappella version of Tito Rodriguez’s theme, “Mama Guëla.”

“Oyela...Bailala” is a “serious jam,” with Piro Rodriguez letting loose on trumpet. “DB Goes to NY” features two invited New York artists, pianist Hector Martignon (of Ray Barretto’s New World Spirit), and bassist John Benitez. These two add some jazzy, spicy bits of apple, Big Apple, to the already piping hot brew.

If you miss solos, you’ll get plenty of them here. The D.B. personnel are basically intact in this second offering. In addition to the already mentioned musicians, this set also features Juancito Torres, Mario Rivera, Reinaldo Jorge, Pedro Guzmán, Angel “Cachete” Maldonaldo, Anthony Carrillo, and invited guests Justo Betancourt, Bobby Valentin, Charlie Sepulveda, Papo Vasquez, Andy Gonzalez, and Eric Figueroa. RMM’s Nelson Rodriguez told me that Abrazate was done for artistic and musical reasons, and that it is “Puerto Rico’s way of saying that their music is still about Afro-Cuban swing,” and he added that he felt extremely privileged to work on this project.

It is my hope that being on board with RMM, a label which, incidentally, boasts an increasingly diversified roster, will bring Fran’ Ferrer and Descarga Boricua the recognition and success that they so truly deserve. Certainly it means much wider distribution and promotion for them. And good news is that Nelson Rodriguez tell me there will be more material forthcoming from D.B.!

Al DeLory Floreando
(Music Makers 001) TL-15296.10

Not only does Nashville have salsa, it has a Puerto Rican population which treasures its roots, craves its music, and attends dances. Nashville (yes, the one in Tennessee) has a mambo king, too! He is the pianist, Al DeLory.

This king, as you would expect, has his own collection of gold and platinum. DeLory produced and arranged Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Both were Grammy Award winners. DeLory also produced and arranged “Wichita Lineman” which received a Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist. To name the artists that DeLory has worked with is to drop some heavy names in the industry: Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, Paul Williams, Gladys Knight, Dean Martin, Tammy Wynette. Those are just a few names from a long list.

But, how did Al DeLory and salsa come to Nashville? Well, it turns out that DeLory’s first love was Latin music, and his heroes were Frank “Machito” Grillo, Noro Morales, and Joe Loco. In the fifties, DeLory led his own Latin trio in Las Vegas. DeLory’s life and career became a whirlwind of success, and he worked with the luminaries of the industry, partially listed in the preceding paragraph.

He finally ended up in Nashville, and, upon hearing Willie Chirino’s “Oxigeno,” which is included on Floreando, he decided to once again play Latin music, this time for the Puerto Rican population of the country music capital of the world.

Thanks to writer/historian Max Salazar, I’ve had the opportunity to meet this humble and serious “mambo king,” and I’ve gotten the chance to see for myself what the patrons of Nashville’s Mere Bulles club have been raving about. It is also worth mentioning here that recently a predominantly non-Latino Knoxville audience gave DeLory and his Latin music an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response following a performance.

Floreando is an independent production, and each detail of this labor of love has been important to DeLory. He expresses gratitude and respect for his players, percussionist Dann Scherrill, bassist John Di Modica, and legendary woodwind player Jim Horn. He praises all for their “thorough understanding of the music.”

The title track is a knock-out. The “Theme from MASH” features Horn on sax on flute. This number was a hit piano single for DeLory in 1970 and remained on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart twelve weeks. Other selections include “Classical Gas,” “Maria Cervantes,” and “Pete Mambos on the Terrace.” If the phrase “salsa in Nashville” still ends with a question mark in your mind, check this one out!

Ray Barretto & New World Spirit
My Summertime
(Owl/Blue Note 35830) TL-15031.10

“I feel that this record is an effort to incorporate and respect the language of jazz, supported by Latin rhythms, so that the two worlds become a cohesive and enjoyable body of music. The two worlds I am and love.” So spoke Ray Barretto to me, from France, through his wife Annette, concerning his latest release.

In the course of his quest to synthesize his “two worlds,” Ray Barretto and New World Spirit have evolved to a new point, and they soar to new heights with My Summertime.

And, Barretto has made the tune “Summertime” truly his own. I first heard him sing “Summertime” several years ago at New York City’s now defunct Village Gate. Salsa truly met jazz that magical Monday night. Barretto’s rendition of this Heyward-Gershwin classic was all the more poignant because it was so unexpected. We sat at the long tables, surprised and transfixed. We listened as Ray Barretto sang his heart out.

It was not the first time he sang this song. Annette told me that he first did this during a radio interview in France. Producer Jean-Jacques Pussiau was wowed as he listened on his radio and he went to great lengths to locate Barretto. Their subsequent meeting in Paris led to the recording with the prestigious Blue Note label.

Since childhood, Barretto has lived in his “two worlds,” a phrase Annette helped him coin one night to describe his musical loves. He’s played and recorded with the greats of jazz—Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Red Garland, and Herbie Mann, to name just some. In his other “world,” this Brooklyn born and bred “modest giant” of Puerto Rican descent has worked with the greats—Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and Ruben Blades, and he has been a bandleader since his 1962 charanga. He remains a major force.

On the title track and throughout, Colombian pianist Hector Martignon, who has been with Barretto since Handprints (Concord CCD4473), plays with his usual elegance. Gifted trumpeter and trombonist Michael Phillip Mossman shines on Thelonius Monk’s “Off Minor.” His trombone on “Summertime” will make you shiver and shake your head. Adam Kolker’s saxophone not only “respects the language of jazz,” but is extremely articulate as it weaves rich melodic textures. Bassist Jairo Moreno, who, like Martignon, is Colombian, masterfully supports the efforts of his fellow players throughout the entire CD. Moreno’s co-arrangement with Barretto of the latter’s composition, “Worlds I Love,” is a dynamic demonstration of the title. On this number, Vince Cherico makes you feel Barretto’s “two worlds” as he replicates the feelings of timbales on a drum set.

Besides “Off Minor,” this release contains classic material by Brubeck and Duke Jordan, and original songs written by Barretto, Martignon, and Mossman. Mossman’s arrangement of his own “Brother Ray” and Martignon’s arrangement of Jordan’s “No Hay Problema (No Problem)” really swing.

Ray Barretto remains true to both of his “worlds.” His excellence, integrity, and spirit have earned him the respect and admiration of his fans and colleagues alike, in his “two worlds.”

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