From salsa gorda to romantic boleros, there’s something for everyone.
They just keep coming . . . great recordings that are worthy of your collection. In this batch we consider music from groups out of Los Angeles, Denver, Miami and Spain. All are different, all deliver. And all came out in late 2014, making them perfect to explore in 2015. Enjoy!
(Rolling Pin Music, 2014)
Nominated for a 2015 Grammy in the Best Tropical Latin Album category, this Miami-based group didn’t win the award but delivered a winning recording all the same. Palo! has a unique sound that is familiar and new all at the same time with its Afro-Cuban funk sound. Standout tunes include La malanga resbala, Lengua larga and Crescencio. All of the compositions are original, written by members of the group. This includes vocalist Leslie Cartaya, whose sultry delivery is a knockout. Other members are Ed Calle, Philbert Armenteros, Raymer Olalde and Steve Roitstein. By the way, Palo! was competing against Carlos Vives (who won), El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Aymee Nuviola and Totó La Momposina.
(Demand Records, 2014)
California is known for producing great bands that deliver great recordings. This is true of Tarzana, a recently founded band that knocks it out of the park with it first, self-titled recording. It was produced and arranged by L.A. phenom Hector Manuel Rivera, who has headed up a number of groups, including Orquesta Tabaco y Ron. There’s a little bit of something for everyone to love—bachata, reggaetón, Latin jazz and cumbia. And of course, some killer salsa numbers: Si se puede, Chipilín and Baila con Tarzana. Not a bad effort for a freshman outing.
(Compass Records, 2014)
Vocalist Cecilia Noël’s concept was to take some classic, rock songs and give them a hard-driving Cuban vibe. Did the concept work? Most definitely. This album is nothing but hot, pulsating energy. Just give a listen to Eddie Van Halen’s Jump and you are sold. Then move on to David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Gary Numan’s Cars, and you’ll be glad you’ve added this recording to your collection. Noël recorded the CD in Havana with an impressive lineup of Cuban singers and musicians that includes San Miguel Pérez, tres; Gastón Joya Perellada, upright bass; Tony Rodríguez, piano; and Adel González, percussion.
Salsa Pa’ Rato
There are no borders when it comes to music . . . or salsa. Consider this Barcelona-based group Tromboranga, comprised of musicians from Spain, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and England. Its fourth recording (if you don’t count the one it recorded with Bloque 53), Salsa Pa’ Rato, is a continuation of the group’s commitment to salsa brava with a heavy dose of strong percussion, horns and great vocals with a nod to the classic salsa sounds of the 60’s and 70’s. And, yes, it was made with dancers in mind. Consider the power-packed, title track Salsa pa’ rato and the lively Descarga con pachanga. Then for a change of pace, No tengo que pagar teases with its funky intro before slipping into its guajira groove.
Rompiendo La Rutina
(Guarapo Records, 2014)
I’m based in Los Angeles, so forgive me for giving a nod to the city’s talent again. This time the praise is for master percussionist and sonero Perico Hernández’s new release Rompiendo La Rutina. This is the second release on his label, the first being Cuento en Clave. Like that previous recording, this one sticks to Hernández dedication to Cuba’s traditional rhythms—son, rumba, bolero, son montuno, guaguancó and guaracha. He also introduces us to his fanciful ritmo locomotora pilón in a tune titled Pilón en el Malecón. Then he closes with a real get-up-and-move song, a comparsa titled La reina del Carnaval. ¡Vamos a bailar!
Because variety is the spice of life, I leave you with this recording by a group out of the Denver area—Los Bohemios. An acoustic ensemble, they deliver beautifully executed boleros that are evocative of times gone by. Exhibit A: Sin tí, a classic by Pepe Guizar. Exhibit B: Una copa más, a ballad by Chucho Navarro. Exhibit C: Perdón, a classic by Pedro Flores. The recording is balanced by some beautiful sones and a wonderful rendition of the famous Guantanamera. Los Bohemios is Ricardo Peña on vocals and requinto, Amy Biondo on vocals and hand percussion, Ed Edwards on guitar and vocals, Mark Diamond on upright bass, and Jose Espino on congas and bongos.