Take a trip down memory lane with us and revisit some important salsa albums you may have missed over these last couple of years.
Don Perignon y la Puertorriqueña
(Don Records, 2016)
Pedro Luis Morales Cortijo, aka Don Perignon, is a Puerto Rican timbal player, musical director and arranger. He is been on the salsa scene for some 30 years. His experience includes directing the orchestra of Andy Montañez (who gave his nickname of “Don Perignon”). In 1989, he struck out on his own and formed his own band. Since then, his music has been characterized by a hard-driving, nothing-sappy-about-it sound. There isn’t a bad number on his latest release starting with the Dale sabor a tu vida That was the first hit off the album. After that, take your pick from among Mulata coqueta, Baila bailador and Guarachando. To slow things down, there’s a danceable cha cha cha titled Chévere. And to close out this session, he offers up a swinging, instrumental version of the Star Trek theme song!
(Don Records, 2016)
Like father, like son. This is so true when talking about Don Perignon and his son, Pedro Luis Morales Donato. Now known artistically as Pete Perignon, he studied percussion as a young boy and played with a number of student groups. As a teen he joined the orchestras of Nklabe and NG2. Over the course of the years he worked with his dad and other salsa greats. Now, he has come out with his first CD that absolutely delivers. He sounds as good as his father or any other seasoned veteran of salsa. His opener, Opening ¡Aquí llegó prepares you for what follows. His tribute to his dad, Los pasos de mi padre, is both touching and hot. He also stretches himself with the lovely bolero Simplemente una ilusión and the son Hay que tener sazón. He also shows off his chops expertly delivering the classics Lo que se da no se quita and the Javier Vázquez hit Traigo salsa.
Dueño de Nada
(Gogo Music, 2016)
Puerto Rican singer, José Charlie Maldonado’s latest release starts with a bang with the title track, Dueño de nada, that was a monster hit for the Venezuelan singer José Luis Rodríguez in the 1980s. Maldonado deftly gives it new life in a snappy arrangement by Ceferino Cabán. Who knew it could sound so good . . . and be so danceable? But Maldonado offers more. A standout tune is Y tu no me quiere a mi, another dance option. The release also highlights Maldonado’s romantic leanings that are evident in several other tracks. Just their titles give them away. There’s La sombra de mi amor, Cuerpo y alma and Aprisionado en tu querer. Maldonado, by the way, has been part of the acclaimed Orquestra La Selecta, led by the now late, great Raphy Leavitt.
Some artists have surprising backgrounds, not always evident in their music. Listening to Gonzalo Porta’s recent release you might assume he’s from one of the capitals of salsa. But on further investigation you learn he was born in Australia and brought up in his family’s home of Uruguay. Interviewing him on my radio program, I just could not get over his Australian accent in English and his Uruguayan accent in Spanish. Regardless, he’s been in love with tropical music from an early age and has crafted a delightfully versatile album. He shows off his salsa chops with the aptly titled Traigo candela (that he also offers in a salsatón version) and Severa. But you will also find some salsa romántica in Solo mia and Vuelve. He even delves into bachata and merengue.
Julio Bravo y su Orquesta Salsabor
(Julio Bravo, 2014)
Ok, not so new, but maybe it escaped your attention as it had mine. The good thing is that it is now part of my collection and what fun it is. Julio Bravo is a Peruvian-born singer, composer and bandleader based in San Francisco, who started his group in 1994. On this very personal release he pays tribute to his beloved Peru and the United States. The first track on the CD—San Francisco tiene salsa—is tasty and lively. From there you’re on to his nods to his querido Peru. Tunes Mi terruño and Cuando regreso a Lima say it all. Bravo also includes his first bachata, Te extraño, and slows it down with a lovely bolero-cha titled Por culpa del destino. And then just to make a point, he closes with what could become a signature tune Soy sonero. Glad I found this one. They say late is better than never.