As we near the half way point of the year and the summer, where the memorable recordings are aired on radio, we are looking at some very interesting projects that are either still in progress or finished. While commercial radio will not be supporting these recordings Salsa CD’s they will only get play at college, online and NPR radio shows if they manage to get the music to the hosts of all these shows. One artist that will get commercial play is Marc Anthony with his first Salsa CD in over five years titled “Opus”. While I found this CD too romantic the formula used will be a huge success for Marc’s legion of fans. I did love “Parecen Viernes” which is the second single from the CD.
One of these hot new recordings is the new Mario Ortiz All Star Band celebrating his dad’s legacy.“55 Aniversario”, comprised of ten awesome arrangements of hits like the first single, “Fuego”, sung by Ruben Trujillo and “Avisale A Mi Contrario” sung by Andy Montañez & Ismael Miranda (who have a history of recording together on various bolero LP’s) with special guest Roberto Roena on the bongo solo. Rigoberto Diaz excels on the timbal solo on “Soltando Chispas” sung by Gilberto Santa Rosa. There is a rare timbal solo by Willie Rosario on the track “Mas Bonita Que Ninguna” and the instrumental “Budo” (arranged by Mario Ortiz Sr. for the 1976 Puerto Rico All Star LP) has two trumpet solos by Mario Ortiz Jr. & Luis ‘Perico’ Ortiz. “Trucutu” is handled by Victor Manuelle with timbal and trumpet solos by Pete Perignon and Mario Ortiz Jr. Tito Nieves is the invited guest on “Doña Intranquilidad”.
Veteran Mario Grillo, known to many as Machito Jr., with his band Afro-Cubology present “For My Grandsons” that highlights trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and alto saxophonist David DeJesus. One of the top hits of 2019 will be Mario’s version of “Maria Cervantes” with the fine piano work of Gilberto Colon Jr. and the timbale duel between Mario and Tito Rodriguez Jr. The opening track “Take it To the Ozone” has also been getting good airplay as well as the bands version of “Watermelon Man”. Also check out the funky and different track “Cada Dia Mas Cubano” with Mario on vocals accompanied by conguero Eddie Montalvo.
Julio Albino after spending several years performing for various bands in Puerto Rico decided to start his own band which debuted with the CD “Bailalo”, in 2005, as Junito y su Grupo Secreto a Voces. Then followed it up with the CD “Haciendo Ruido” in 2017 and is back today with their third release “El Secreto Ya No Es Secreto” (The Secret Is No Longer a Secret). The bands three vocalists Fernando Mercado, Eneris Cardoza and Lero Martinez do superb jobs on their respective recordings while the arrangers Javier Fernandez, Nino Segarra, Cuto Soto, David Forestier, Tony Velasquez and Guillermo Calderon also shine on the charts. My favorite tracks are “Chachara Con Cua”, “El Secreto Ya No Es Secreto”, “Eden Borinqueño”, “Besos De Miel”, “Me Parece Que Se Te Olvida”, and “Ahora No Me Acuerdo De Nada”.
Vocalist Moise Gonzalez has been doing his thing for many years and is originally from Santa Cruz, Tenerife (Islas Canarias) where he formed his Orchestra Son Iya, His recording debut came in 2004 with the CD titled “Va Por Ti Frankie”. For this debut he invited Lalo Rodriguez, Luis Enrique and Jose Alberto’ El Canario’. He later went on to record the CD’s “Loca Sorpresa”, “Archipielago”, “Relatos”, “Diferente” and the live concert “Una Vida. Una Historia”. His latest in “Irrepitible” with the outstanding singles “El Experimento”, “El Tumbao De Maria”, “Juan Rodriguez: and “Mira Que Suerte”. Add to this bassist/producer Alain Perez, trombonist Amaury Perez and trumpeter Alexander Abreu (three Hall of Famers) and you have another winner for Moise Gonzalez.
Veteran bandleader and producer Rigoberto Rodriguez has a new recording featuring the vocal talents of Betsy Lopez that is a welcomed new voice to the Salsa scene in Puerto Rico. The recording “Le Cantare Al Bailador”, recorded in Cali, Colombia and Florida, USA has a very vibrant swing to it and excellent arrangements by Ernesto Sanchez. The hits that all DJ’s and fans will gravitate to will be “Le Cantare Al Bailador”, “Hay Comentario”, “Que Tiene Tu Piel” and “La Mala De La Película”.
Van Lester (real name Lester Orengo) has his roots back in the early 80’s that led him to record with Frank Ferrer & Puerto Rico 2013 where his fame began to flourish and come to the attention of RMM Records Ralph Mercado. At that time Ralph was developing a sub-label called Sonero and Van Lester debuted for the label with “Soy La Voz” and soon became known worldwide. From the 2004 release “Estaba Para Mi” the tracks “Sonero”, “Lo Que Me Pasa a Mi”, and “Se Encontro El Amor” were hits that travelled the globe and are now being re-issued.
Anthony Carrillo recorded a tribute to the great conguero Chucky Lopez (of Eddie Palmieri fame) with Roberto Quintero that I know will just be a single possibly leading to a full project. I will let you know more about this recording as news arrives in the coming months.
One of today’s brightest young vocalists is Edwin Lebron. He has recorded with others and has done his own projects and will have a new solo release later this year. Veteran Herman Olivera is working on a new project and from Puerto Rico Choco Orta is also working on her next release.
Women have been more prominent in the Salsa (& Jazz) field over the last few decades and no where is it stronger than in South America and in particular Peru where Son Tentacion, led by Paula Arias has had a legion of female vocalists (Susana Esver as musical director, Sue Rabanal, Key, Yahaira Placencia, Angie Chavez Bustillo, Daniela Darcourt, later Vernis Hernandez, Kate Candela, Mercedes Pollet, Edmary Gomez, Paola, Kiara Franco) go through the ranks with the most popular, yet controversial Yahaira Plasencia and Daniela Darcourt (who was replaced by Nataly Greys Morales). The band, formed in 2012 with Paula, Lariz Rojas, Angela Vargas, Lumy Cano, and Susy Cristan is composed mostly by men as the musicians with the front line of females in extremely sexy outfits. Not all the ladies have the vocals to take it to another level but a few have gone on to lead their own bands.
The best known is Yahaira Placencia, known as ‘La Reina Del Toto’ (a dance style associated with Son Tentacion that even generated a controversy over who invented the dance), formed her own group in 2017 after another controversy over her wanting the male musicians from Son Tentacion for her own band. Yahaira confessed that the men wanted to go with her due to lack of work with Son Tentacion but they had a change of heart and ended up staying with Son Tentacion. Yahaira was later sued for plagiarism and the press feasted with the constant controversial comments going back and forth. Yahaira’s band is a replica of Son Tentacion causing even more accusations about originality or the lack of it. Even with her own band where Yahaira gave other vocalists a chance to shine jealousies developed causing many to leave Yahaira’s band over the next few years.
Daniela Darcourt (who shows in videos during her Son Tentacion days that she had that star quality) and her Orchestra have set the radio airwaves on fire with hits like “Adios Amor”, “A Esa”, “Señor Mentira” and “Probablemente”. She seems to be the most popular at this moment in 2019 with ‘Adios Amor’.
Mercedes Pollett started her band in 2017 with no controversy and while you can find many of her performances only on video we have not seen an actual new recording as of yet.
Orquesta You Salsa with vocalist Amy Gutierrez (also an ex -Son Tentacion member) on “No Te Contaron Mal” and “Duro y Suave” & “Como Se Duele” with Jean Pierre Puppi are also making some noise in Peru.
Orquesta Bembe with vocalist Maria Gracia is by far my favorite, from Peru, with the #1 hit “Amigos No Por Favor”. Gracia is a superb voice backed by the all-male band and has the makings of becoming a huge star.
Gabby Zambrano that we first heard singing India, Selena and Marc Anthony medleys also has the looks and vocal chops to go a long way. All of these young ladies are from Peru.
What they all have in common is doing mostly pop covers as Salsa Romantica. They also have put Peru on the Salsa map with all these changes and debuts.…Chim pu …Callao!
There is a project called “Puerto Rico Salsa 2020” due before the end of the year with many all-stars with the first single “Tributo al Cantante De Los Cantantes Hector Lavoe” and a line-up that includes NG2, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Jerry Rivas, Juan Jose Hernandez, Edwin Mulenze, Victor Manuelle, Juan Pablo Diaz, Jose Luis de Jesus (Del Sur Al Norte), Julito Alvarado, Pete Perignon, Reynaldo Jorge and director Anibal de Gracia.
There are also scheduled releases by some favorites La Excelencia, Sonora Ponceña, Orquesta La 33, Puerto Rican Power, Tito Rojas, Mambo Legends Orchestra, Joe Collado, Oscar Hernandez & Alma Libre, Mingo B, the Yellow House Orchestra (that made their debut a few years ago), vocalist Eva Cortes with Luisito Quintero & Doug Beavers, and a summer release for Doug Beavers himself.