What We’ll Put Up With In Order To See Our Heroes

Posted on Aug 25, 2009

I recently attended an important event: The kick off party to the 8th Annual SF Salsa Congress featuring the legendary El Gran Combo from Puerto Rico at one of my favorite salsa palaces (and I’m not just saying that because I work there) Cafe Cocomo. The place was stuffed with the “beautiful people”, dancers, djs, musicians and those who just wanted to be seen. The dance troupes were amazing to watch: Ricardo and Michelle’s Pretty Boys and Girls, Salsamania and Rica Salsa moved so smooth that they made it look easy to combine acrobatics, dance to precision and stay on clave to boot! Finally El Gran Combo jumped on stage. Now, I’ve seen El Gran Combo for more than 30 years and they are looking old up there. However…what swing and salsa from these great icons of our music. They don’t move as much as they used to back in the day but they connected with the crowd! However, I started to notice that every song had an unwanted chorus of feedback. Yes, every song had feedback that the sound people could not fix! I spoke to my friend Rhush, Cocomo’s manager who just shook his head and said that the sound people were El Gran Combo’s sound techs who wanted to run the sound their way! The band didn’t have a proper sound check to begin with and the techs didn’t trust Cocomo’s sound folks. So we (the crowd and I) endured a set of El Gran Combo with feedback every 2 minutes!!! Still the crowd danced, drank and partied because the music was soooo good!! I don’t think that people were even aware of the feedback because it was Gran Combo playing up there!!!! A collective numbness from the crowd blocked the crappy sound from our ears….we would not be denied our favorite El Gran Combo tunes. What we’ll put up to see our...

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Hola From Barcelona, Espana-Talking with Ël Molestoso

Posted on Aug 3, 2009

Barcelona, Spain is hot with a rich music scene that ranges from salsa to rumba catalana. One of the reasons that Spain is on the latin musical map has a lot to do with one of its primary movers and shakers, Enrique Romero “El Molestoso”, a champion of la “salsa dura” since the early 80´s in Barcelona. Enrique wears many hats which include hosting the popular radio program “Picadillo” on RCB Radio, being the artistic director in charge of promotions of the “Antilla” –considered one of the most important salsa clubs in Europe–, as well as a sought after graphic designer who was former publisher/editor of the highly regarded magazine “El Manisero” and a noted salsa club dj who just recently performed at the prestigious Tempo Latino festival in France. Enrique, who is known for his wicked sense of humor and sharp musical opinions, is also the Product Manager of Radio Gladys Palmera, a unique radio station that broadcasts out of Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia 24 hours a day. Their format is called “sonido global” blasting salsa, rumba, chanson, flamenco, electronica, latin jazz, eclectic pop, cuban and world music. Radio Gladys Palmera, the brainchild of founder Alejandra Fierro Eleta is celebrating their 10 year anniversary. For more info on Radio Gladys Palmera and to listen on line, visit radiogladyspalmera.com. To check out what Enrique Romero is all about, check out his web site: www.latincoolture.com. I will be airing an interview with Enrique on Con Sabor in September on KPFA 94.1 FM or www.kpfa.org where the music programs are archived for two...

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Summer Listening 2009

Posted on Jul 24, 2009

Summer is a great time to get away. I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow. But before I go, I wanted to recommend some hot recordings that will enhance your mood whether it’s salsa, latin jazz, timba, reggaeton, latin alternative or whatever gets your inner groove on. Pa’ bailar, gozar y sudar…con sabor! Claudia Acuna “En Este Momento” – exceptional jazz vocalist from Chile. Get ready to be seduced. Bebo & Chucho Valdes “Juntos Para Siempre – father & son piano legends: masters at work. Tito Puente “Dance Mania” (2 cd Legacy Edition includes Vol 1 & 2) – classic, essential dance music from the King himself at the height of the Palladium period. La Sucursal S.A. “Lo Nuestro” – Salsa dura from Barcelona con swing y calidad! Edwin Clemente “Aqui Traigo La Rumba, Bailador” – timbalero extraordinare, explosive tunes. Various “Ahora En La Habana 2” (cd/dvd) the latest hits from the current idols from Cuba Latin Giants Of Jazz “Ven Baila Conmigo!” – powerful playing, great singing, dope tunes = A list Jimmy Bosch “A Millon!” – trombone titan combines salsarific songs with biting social commentary. Tiempo Libre “Bach In Havana” – enjoyable fusion of cuban music and JS Bach! Bravisimo! Orestes Vilato “It’s About Time” – long awaited cd from percussion master – con clase y en clave! Chembo Corniel “Things I Wanted To Do” – great latin jazz from one of new york’s finest Santero “El Hijo De Obatala” – oakland based dj/rapero offers his intoxicating stew rich w/beats, salsa, afro-cuban and hip hop. Bobi Cespedes “Patakin” – soulful earthy vocals, cuban son, classic boleros-there’s only one Bobi! Bobby Sanabria/Manhattan School Of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz “Kenya” – Machito’s smiling from above checking out this powerful big band tribute from conductor Sanabria and company. Yumuri Y Sus Hermanos “Cubano Cubano” – Maraca’s sonero brother has put out a scorcher. Hear it…Dance to it…just get it! Calle Real “Me Lo Gane” – The european ambassadors of timba just raised the bar with this hot new release! Que barbaro! Aymee “Corazon Sonero” – My guilty pleasure. She’s politically incorrect but the tunes are irresistable. Various – “Live At Jellys” – Great moments captured from the best of the San Francisco Bay Area salsa scene performing live. I not just saying this because I work there...

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You’ll feel the "Soul Power" with Fania on Film

Posted on Jul 14, 2009

I recently was invited to a screening of a powerful new documentary “Soul Power”. This film documents the 1974 three day festival which took place in Zaire, Africa which featured scintillating peformances from James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, The Spinners and last but not least Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars. The festival took place before the legendary fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman (aka “The Rumble In The Jungle”). I was struck by the segments featuring the Fania All Stars. The joy of an impromptu jam session aboard a plane full of these great musicians with Fania holding court: Johnny Pacheco blowing his flute, Celia Cruz soneando her inspiraciones, Pupi Lagaretta effortlessly playing guajeos on his violin, Yomo Toro strumming his cuatro with BB King looking on with a big smile, Ray Barretto and Nicky Marrero keeping the percussion burning from their plane seats and Ismael Miranda joining in on coro. But that’s not all! The film captures an explosive performance of the entire band performing the Celia and Johnny classic “Quimbara”. Celia looked majestic in her splashy cuban carnaval dress as she connected with her African public through her passionate voice. Pacheco leads this monster of a band with his natural showmanship taking his cue to dance rumba with Celia on-stage. And what a band: Cheo, Lavoe, Santitos Colon, Ismael Quintana, Ismael Miranda, Larry Harlow, Bobby Valentin, Pupi and that fabulous horn section! This leads up to a smokin’ percussion finale featuring Nicky Marrero on timbales, Roberto Roena on bongo and Ray Barretto on congas. Barretto in the heat of a burning solo then jumps up and “dances” with his conga to end the number. Wow! It reminded me of the first time that I caught the Fania All Stars at San Francisco’s Winterland in 1975. The film documents the enthusiasm of all of these great musicians making the connection with Africa. For the African American musicians, it signified a deep sentiment that they were “home” where they didn’t feel the sting of racism and discrimination. The film primarily focuses on these great entertainers. A confident and wise crackin’ Muhammad Ali lights up the screen with his poignant comments on the difference on the way he is treated in Africa as opposed to America. The other great presence on the screen is the late “Godfather of Soul” James Brown. This film truly demonstrates why he was an international phenomenon and an inspiration through his music. Another great scene illustrates the universal power of the drum as Ray Barretto and Nicky Marrero play drums on a Zaire street with a group of African drummers. They didn’t need to speak a particular language to talk to each other, the rhythm of the beats they played said it...

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