Puerta Del Sur (Vampisoul, 2014)
Heaped with a slew of congas, timbales and enough brass to soothe your inner salsero, Bio Ritmo’s Puerto Del Sur, set for release on June 24th, packs a powerful punch. Bio Ritmo fans will know their brand of salsa by such releases as Rumba Baby Rumba, Bio Ritmo, Que Siga La Musica, La Verdad, Salsa Galactica and Bionico. Dazzling fans for more than 20 years, Bio Ritmo has once again kicked convention by going their own way and whipping up a sound that has its roots in the 1970s salsa tradition with its intent on the future of salsa music. Thanks to the Spanish label Vamisoul whose made it their mission to unearth ‘lost’ Latin music, Bio Ritmo are free to explore the progression of the Afro-Cuban tradition and putting their unique stamp on the music.
“Our mission from day one was to write original music in the classic salsa style and experimentation is as much a part of the tradition as the wide-ranging Afro-Cuban genres that it’s based on,” says Rei Alvarez, Bio Ritmo’s lead singer and the group’s composer.
In the liner notes writer Pablo Yglesias puts Bio Ritmo and the nueva salsa movement in perspective this way, “In this war for hearts and minds (and behinds!), the secret weapon against boring salsa today as been Bio Ritmo, and they, like fearless revolutionaries, have in turn led the way or inspired other to join the fray, swelling the ranks with foot soldiers like LA-33, Orquesta El Macabeo, Spanish Fly, Tromboranga, Zon Del Barrio, Jesus Pagan, Melaza and La Mercanica Popular.”
Bio Ritmo’s rich, ripe sound is the result of the combination of the group’s usual suspects: Rei Alvarez on vocals and guiro; Marlysse Rose Simmons on piano, nord electro3 and effets; Giustino Riccio on timbales, coro and congas; Hector “Coco” Barez on congas and doumbek; Edward Prendergast on electric bass and fuzz bass; Tobias Whitaker on trombone; Bob Miller on trumpet, coro, synth and sound effects; John Lilley on tenor saxophone and Mark Ingrahm on cornet. Add in guest artists coro player Laura Ann Singh, cuatro player Bryan Vargas, trombonist Chris Bates, baritone saxophonist JC Kuhl, bongo and conga player Gabo Tomasini, bongo player Mike E. Montanez, violinists Ellen Cockerham and Treesa Gold, violist Kim Ryan and bassist Matt Gold and it becomes clear that the stylish and infectious salsa on Puerta Del Sur is due to first class musicianship and superior arrangements.
Kicking off with the rousing “Se Les Olvido,” Bio Ritmo makes is clear that listeners aren’t given some warmed over rehash of salsa classics, but instead offered something fresh and voluptuous. Sliding smoothly into the coolly hip “La Via,” are treated to some slick effects, stunning brass and hip swiveling percussion before slipping into the rousing “Picaresca.” Fans get a dose of some spectacular vocals on “Perdido” on a track that has a sweetly dated feel to it, before giving way to other goodies like the percussion rich and sassily worked “Pajaro Pio Pio” and the sophisticated savvy feel of “Le Dicen Dolor.”
The biggest surprise on Puerta Del Sur has to be closing track “Codenia” that is a hybrid of a Latin bolero and a 1960s Egyptian classical number, where Giustino Riccio, Rei Alvarez and Marlysse Simmons pay tribute to the Arabic, Greek and Turkish music of the 60s and 70s. Employing a Farfisa organ, Arabic percussion and a string section this track might come as a complete surprise but its execution comes as completely organic and wildly entertaining.
Bio Ritmo does indeed banish the idea of boring salsa, but more importantly squeezes out with wild abandon each and every delicious drop of what’s up next for the new generations of salsa music.
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