These CD’s wrapped up a good year of music
While we wait for the new crop of must-have cd’s for 2017, let’s check some of last year’s productions you might have missed.
(EGC Records, 2016)
Gran Combo—or El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico—as it is more formally known, is a salsa institution. Let’s face it, this group has been around since 1962 and has produced hit after hit throughout its existence. That’s why every recording is something to look forward to. And this one is pure, classic Gran Combo. Just slide it into your player, close your eyes and hit a button, any button. You will not be disappointed. There’s the title track, Alunizando that will take you to the moon and back. Then there is the expected tribute to Puerto Rico in Mi isla and a song that will make you hungry, Arepa con bacalao. You’ll get to experience their newest singer, Anthony García, who joined the group in 2015 and who takes the lead in Besar tu boca.
Lucas Van Merwijk’s Cubop City Big Band
Star: EWF Latino
(Tam Tam Productions, 2016)
Lucas Van Merwijk is a master drummer, producer, bandleader and educator based out of the Netherlands. With this, his latest recording, he comes up with a unique concept—new, Latin versions of the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. Earth Wind & Fire is an iconic group formed in 1970 that is best known for its revolutionary mix of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, Latin and African music. The album opens with a stirring rendition of Star that lets you know you are in for a ride with a full-bodied orchestration. A personal favorite is In the Stone with its danceable groove. But September and Let’s Groove Tonight are just plain fun and capture the essence of the original versions. Earth, Wind & Fire’s music gets a great update with this recording.
Anibal de Gracia
(ADG Records, 2016)
Pleasant surprises await you in this CD that states on its cover: “Anibal de Gracia y sus Invitados.” Yup, Anibal has invited lots of friends to guest on this recording. The opening number will draw you in instantly from the first guitar chord in a creative arrangement of the Miguel Matamoros standard Lágrimas negras. That is Trio Los Andinos taking you into a number that quickly heats up with Rey Ruiz, Lucy Grau, Carlos García, Edgar Daniel, Moncho Rivera, Camilo Azuquita and Willie González taking vocal turns. From then on it’s non-stop fun. Tributo a la reina is a rousing tribute to Celia Cruz featuring six female vocalists, including Mayte Pérez from Conjunto Sabrosura. This is followed by a tribute to Hector Lavoe—Tributo al cantante, featuring a lineup of top soneros. And there are even two songs that were perfect for this year’s holiday season—Yo me tomo el ron and El abuso.
Un Poquito de Amor Everyday
(San Miguel Perez, 2016)
If ever there was feel-good album, this is it. You could simply start and end with the title track Un poquito de amor everyday. I personally think this is THE happy song for every day and all times. Basically it says that everyone needs a little love everyday. The delivery by San Miguel Pérez makes this a song one you want to hear over and over again. It makes you feel good; it makes you feel happy. San Miguel, known as the “tresero moderno” and is a master of that oh-so-Cuban instrument, the tres, and he is a talented composer and singer. Originally from Cuba, San Miguel now makes his home in Los Angeles. Topanga es mi conservatorio is a lilting and evocative tribute to his new home. This maybe not be salsa dura, but rather a lovely production that you just want to sit down and listen too quietly.
Pacheco y Su Timbal
Humilde ante la realidad de mi sueño
(Pacheco y Su Timbal, 2016)
This new recording by timbalero José Pacheco comes out of the gate strong. From Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Pacheco leads a strong band featuring a rhythm section made up of William “Kachiro” Thompson on conga, Richard Carrasco on bongo, Leni Prieto on piano and Carlos Torres on bass. Máximo Torres brings a unique sound with his cuatro and tres cubano, two iconic string instruments of Afro-Cuban music; and he also wrote and arranged many of the tunes on this recording. Signature tune Pacheco y su timbal is a statement to all salsa lovers and a testament to what the band can deliver. It will make you dance. Palo de guayaba is a nice montuno that will evoke the monte—or countryside. Quédate aquí abounds in jíbaro flavor with Torres’ cuatro. Ese mundo pequeño is uplifting with its positive messages, something we need in these divisive times. Finally, to round out the recording is Latin Jazz a la Pacheco, which is exactly what it says it is.