For our second collection we continue our musical voyage further into tropical dance music of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Each song was recorded from original LP and 45rpm records...listen for the proof in the sound of the needle on vynil.
This mix was put together by Alcance’s own Roberto Ernesto Gyemant, who has published articles on Latin dance music in Wax Poetics Magazine, Latin Beat Magazine, on herencialatina.com and descarga.com.
Roberto as also helped compile Soundway Records (UK) Colombia!, Cartagena! and Panama! Releases (vols. 1-3).
Celia Cruz con la Sonora Matancera – Mi Bomba Sonó (Cuba)
Here is Celia doing a wicked cover of Silvestre Mendez's 'Mi Bomba Sono'. I just found out about a new book about hybrid identities and Latin music, which fits here: Mendez was an Afro-Cuban who moved to Mexico City in the 1940s, where he wrote this smoking guaracha about a bomba, which is a quintessentially Puerto Rican rhythm (and sounds nothing like a guaracha). As far as the music is concerned two things stand out: 1. La Sonora Matancera were a burning hot outfit once they got rolling, and 2. Celia Cruz deserved ever single ounce of devotion and fame she received in her life. What a voice!
Rafael Cortijo con Ismael Rivera – Severa (Puerto Rico)
This version is one Maelo and Cortijo re-recorded in the '70s with Cortijo's original band - that went on to become El Gran Combo. This will be the song my daughters most remember watching mami and papi dance to. I think even if both mine and my wife's legs were broken, and 'Severa' came on, we would get up and work it out on crutches. Check out Maelo's singing and rhyming, making it up as he goes along - next to Mon Rivera, he more than anyone else understood how words could be used just for how they sound, with no regard for what they mean.
Beny Moré y su Orquesta – Francisco Guayabal (Cuba)
It's too bad more people don't know Beny's work. He was absolutely one of the three or four most popular singers in Latin America in his lifetime, which ended prematurely from alcoholism at 43. He was equally at home singing a Bolero - he is still considered one of the top boleristas, go find "Como Fue" or "Vida" - as singing a guaracha or mambo. More had to travel to Mexico City to gain some fame, that's how deep the music scene was in Cuba in the '40s. Though the first sides that gained him recognition were recorded with Perez Prado's orchestra, His own big band (featured here) was top-notch, absolute assassins at every instrument.
Tito Rodríguez y su Orquesta – Mama Guela (USA)
Another semi-forgotten figure who was an absolute legend in his time, one of the two Titos of the Mambo/Palladium world along with Tito Puente. Tito Rodriguez had a fantastic big band, and aside from being very handsome, he was also a dynamite dancer - check youtube for black and white footage of him, he was bad (in the good way). Later he focused only on boleros, and became well known and loved throughout Latin America.
Los Satélites – Ocaso Marino (Colombia)
Los Satelites recorded a couple of LPs for the Fuentes label in the '60s. Fantastic horns and guitar work. I have been listening to this song for coming on ten years, and it stands the test of time.
La Playa Sextet – Mama Calunga (USA)
I have a thing for guitar-led Afro Cuban music, and Payo Alicea and wife Maria Alicea's La Playa Sextet was probably the all-time best. Puerto Ricans who were regulars on the Catskills scene in upstate New York, the Alicea's recorded a number of excellent LPs during the Mambo and Cha Cha Cha era of the '50s through early '60s.
El Gran Combo – Serrana (Puerto Rico)
Serrana is a beautifully sad composition by singer/composer Roberto Anglero, here recorded by Puerto Rico's Salsa institution, El Gran Combo. Featuring a young Andy Montanez on vocals, El Gran Combo deftly weaves through the layers of this song - a guaguanco intro, breaking into a fast guaracha, back into a guaguanco… with passion and musical mastery. Note how Montanez anticipates the coro (chorus) coming in and sings over them, creating a beautiful, emotive texture to the call and response.
Nono Narvaez – Boga Barquero (Colombia)
This song is just magical to me… I am instantly on a raft, going down the river Magdalena on the Colombian coast whenever I hear it. What a fantastic talent, amazing guitar work and vocal harmonies/melodies. Nono total recorded output that I am aware of consists of one record for Sonolux and one side of a record for an obscure Venezuelan label in the '60s, and then another record in Mexico in the '80s.
Pipo y sus Estrellas – Jicotea (Venezuela)
otal time machine dream here. The back to the Pipo y sus Estrellas LP this song was taken from describes"La Chismosa", where Pipo's group had a regular gig in the early 1960s as "one of the select nightclubs in Caracas."A black and white photo shows this small combo, led by guitar, on the bandstand. When someone invents a time machine (Oh please, oh please) we are all dressing like in "Mad Men" and going directly to this club to drink and dance. Vale?
Lou Perez y su Orquesta – El Paso de Encarnación (USA)
As I understand it, Lou Perez was never particularly well known outside of New York and later Colombia (or wherever hardcore Latin LP collectors could be found). The bands he led were exclusively flute and violin led charangas. Boy could he swing! The LP this song was taken from, "Pa Fricase Los Pollos", was recently rereleased on vinyl -- perhaps because the few original copies in existence were nearing the $1000 mark!
Astrud Gilberto – Baiao (Brazil)
Astrud Gilberto - Bebel Gilberto's mother - was a star in the US in the 60s on the strength of her tender singing on the massively popular (Stan) Getz and (Joao) Gilberto records. This song is from one of her later records in the early '70s, and just makes me happy every time I hear it.
Los Amaya y su Combo Gitano – Bailadores (Spain)
I first heard this fantastic little song in Cali, Colombia - two Spanish brothers' cover of a Joe Cuba song done Rumba Flamenca or Rumba Gitana style. The LP was actually pretty hard to find, and there is a nice cover of 'Zapatero Remendon' on it as well. Always gets people excited on the dance floor -- it's all about the handclaps.
Chano Martinez Sextet con Rudy Calzado – A San Francisco (Mexico)
Chano Martinez was a Mexican bandleader who I suspect played a lot in LA in the late '50s and early '60s. Apparently his touring took him up to San Pancho, because he recorded this lovely, vicious little dancehall guaguancó and dedicated it to my home town. I'd like to make a formal complaint at this time for all the amazing songs that are way too short, and clock in at under 2 minutes 30 seconds. That's just wrong.
Sonora del Caribe – Barranquillerita (Colombia)
La Sonora del Caribe was a fantastic big band from the Colombian coast, who accompanied and recorded with the likes of Puerto Rican megastar Daniel Santos in the 1950s. Amazing vocal harmonies and super creative horn charts from a band that didn't miss a note… what else can you ask for?
Alfredito "Sabor" Linares – El Chocolate (Peru)
Alfredo "Sabor" Linares is one of the great Salsa bandleaders to have emerged from Peru in the 1960s. Alfredito recorded for the MAG label, founded by Manuel A. Guerrero, whose son continues to ably run the label up to this day. MAG records - which featured excellent artist/bandleaders such as Coco Lagos, Tito Chicoma, Al di Roma, Melcochita, Hector Ferreyra, Betico Salas (the list of Peruvian talent seems to be endless) are known for their clean, powerful recordings on high quality vinyl. Perhaps that's why original copies routinely sell for hundreds of dollars today.
Carlos Martínez con Los Mozambiques – Conchita Ven (Panama)
While much of the Panamanian Salsa of the '70s is know for it's exceptional swing - as opposed to its clean production values - this song is very cleanly produced and a great vehicle to appreciate the excellent voice of Carlos Martinez. Martinez was one of a trio of excellent singers in Los Mozambiques, one of the best of the Panamanian 'Combos Nacionales' of the late 1960s.