Salsa Celtica’s remarkable success story began in 1995 in the bars and clubs of Scotland’s Edinburgh and Glasgow. In 1997 Salsa Celtica honed their salsa skills with a visit to Cuba to study with the masters and absorb the musical culture and influences. Inspired by Cuba Salsa Celtica released their debut albumMonstruos y Demonios – Angels and Love.
They made a sensational breakthrough in 2003 when their album El Agua De La Vida reached number 5 on the World Music Chart of Europe reached number 2004 in the end of year round-up 2003 World Music Chart for Europe and was their first album released in the US on Compass Records. In 2004 the band took their unique fusion of Latin and Celtic sounds on tour in England for the first time.
In support of their 2004 tour, during which the band played a sold-out show at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Salsa Celtica re-released the album El Agua De La Vida.
The tour was followed in the summer by a series of high profile festival dates including Edinburgh Jazz Festival Dublin’s Temple Bar Festival Gent’s (Belgium) Pole Pole Festival Northern Ireland’s Celtic Fusion Festival and the National Theatre’s Watch This Space Festival on London’s South Bank.
In 2005 the band went back into the studio to record a new album after a three year break bringing in Calum Malcolm as producer and including a collaboration with folk diva Eliza Carthy.
After releasing their fourth album El Camino (The Road), Salsa Celtica spent much of 2006 on the road with an extensive UK tour followed by numerous major festival appearances rounded off with a prestigious official showcase slot at WOMEX in Seville.
Bidimensional, the album by acclaimed Venezuelan salsa band Guaco, has won the Best Contemporary Tropical Grammy award at the 18th Latin Grammy Awards. On half of the album Guaco collaborates with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar de Venezuela (OSSBV), conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
New York City based master timbalero Ralph Irizarry and his 8 piece ensemble Son Cafe was created to celebrate the dance music of Cuban origin made popular by Celia Cruz Pacheco Barretto and others. Ralph Irrizary’s pedigree in this genre is without question. A virtuoso on the timbal drums he came to international prominence in the 1970s playing recording and touring with Ray Barretto’s Salsa Orchestra and followed by a 13-year stint with Ruben Blades and Seis Del Solar.
Ralph Irizarry was born in New York’s Spanish Harlem. His family later moved to Puerto Rico in 1970. He spent there three years working with famous Puerto Rican combos such as La Terrifica, El Gran Combo and Sonora Ponceña. In 1974 he returned to New York
These days while not playing in his own well-know Latin Jazz ensemble Timbalaye, Irizarry has created Son Cafe as an engaging and highly danceable band whose repertoire is mainly based on salsa pura and son cubano. Their exciting novel sound a blend of diverse influences brings to life echoes of such respected aggregations as the legendary Sonora Matancera from Cuba and Puerto Rico’s Sonora Ponceña all combined with the best of the typical New York swing. The group`s powerful delivery is a unique experience for the listener as well as the dancer.
Ralph’s international stature was cemented as a founding member of Ruben Blades’ Seis del Solar. After several world tours and albums with Ruben Blades Ralph was asked to tour and record with the legendary bassist composer and creator of the Mambo: Israel Cachao Lopez. Ralph was immortalized in the films “Cachao: Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos” (produced by Andy Garcia) and the film “Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love”.
Fronted by Ralph’s electrifying timbales, the Son Cafe has featured the dual lead vocals of Jorge Maldonado and Dominican sensation Elsa Ozuna.
Little Johnny Rivero was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. As a young boy he was drawn to the sounds and rhythms of the conga players from Jefferson Park and Randall’s Island Park. Little Johnny began practicing percussion at age ten and played in the school band. Soon after he took dance lessons and performed on stage with the best bands of the era at such famous venues as the Manhattan Center the Colgate Garden and the Copacabana.
At age fourteen Little Johnny joined Orchestra Colon the youngest Latin band inNew York City and recorded two albums with them. In 1973 he moved to Puerto Rico with his parents and joined La Sonora Ponceña in 1974. After playing bongos with them for a year and a half he switched to congas which rekindled the love affair he had begun with the instrument as a small child. Little Johnny attributes the rhythms and professional conduct he learned from Quique Lucca and his son Papo Lucca at this time as the qualities that have made him what he is today.
During the sixteen years Little Johnny played with the La Sonora Ponceña he traveled the world and made eighteen highly respected Latin albums with them. Little Johnny’s other credits include work with Bobby Valentin, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Dave Valentin, Tito Puente, Lucecita Benitez and numerous other artists. He also performed with the RMM All-Stars Band directed by Sergio George, Bebo Valdes and David Murray.
He is currently the co-leader of Alfredo de la Fe Orquesta. He has recorded with such producers as Cuto Soto Ramon Sanchez Cuco Peña and many others. In May 1997 Little Johnny shared the stage with his inspiration and idol Jose Mangual. Little Johnny has traveled the world with the winner of eight Grammy awards Eddie Palmieri. In addition Johnny continues to perform with many of the biggest and most respected acts in Latin music.
Johnny’s first solo effort Pasos Gigantes was very well-received by critics and music fans alike. Johnny also wrote and produced every song on his CD showcasing his arranging and playing abilities.
Some of the finest salsa and jazz musicians will get together later this evening to raise funds and support for musicians in Puerto Rico through the efforts of the Jazz Foundation of America. The show, titled Salsa Meets Jazz for Puerto Rico! is hosted by percussion maestro Bobby Sanabria and Joann Jiménez. The concert takes place at 7:30pm at (Le) Poisson Rouge.
The lineup includes David Amram, Paquito D’Rivera, Cándido, Jimmy Owens, Randy Brecker, Larry Harlow, Eddie Montalvo, Brenda Feliciano, Antoinette Montague, poets Mariposa and Felipe Luciano, DJ Antonio Ocasio and many more.
6:30pm doors, 7:30pm show
(Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012, 212-505-FISH
Rubén Blades – Salsa Big Band (Rubén Blades Producciones, 2017)
Rubén Blades, one of the undisputed masters of salsa music, has released his second album recorded with the formidable Roberto Delgado & Orquesta. As the album title indicates, this recording is a tribute to the 1950s jazz and Latin jazz big bands, many of which were influenced by Cuban music big bands.
There is plenty of well-deserved Panamanian pride in this album. Rubén Blades hails from Panama and Roberto Delgado & Orquesta are Panamanian as well and the album was recorded in Panama. The partnership between Rubén Blades and superb arranger and big band leader Roberto Delgado delivers a set of outstanding songs where you’ll find the best of salsa and Latin jazz, highlighting Rubén’s unique vocals and masterful songwriting along with a large combo of talented instrumentalists.
The lineup on Salsa Big Band includes Rubén Blades on lead and backing vocals; Roberto Delgado on baby bass, electric bass, acoustic bass and backing vocals; Juan Berna on piano; Marcos Barraza on congas; Carlos Pérez-Bidó on timbales; Raúl “Toto” Rivera on bongo, bell, güiros and maracas; Ademir Berrocal on congas, timbales, bongo and bell; Juan Carlos “Wichy” López on trumpets; Alejandro “Chichisín” Castillo on trumpets and trombones; Francisco Delvecchio on trombone; Avenicio “Pin” Núñez on trombone; Carlos Ubarte on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone; Luis Enrique Becerra on keyboards.
Guests: Ricky Rodriguez on piano; Juan Carlos De León on piano; Robinson Fereira on piano; and Pablo Governatori on drums.
Salsa Big Band demonstrates that Rubén Blades is still at the top of the salsa world; a candidate for one of the best albums of the year.
Eddie Palmieri’s musical career spans several decades as a bandleader of salsa and Latin jazz orchestras. His discography includes over 30 albums and various Grammy Awards.
Born in Spanish Harlem (New York city) in 1936, Palmieri began piano studies at an early age, as did his celebrated older brother, the late salsa legend and pianist Charlie Palmieri. For Hispanic New Yorkers of Eddie’s generation, music was a vehicle out of the barrio. At age 11, he made his classical debut at Carnegie Hall, a venue as far from the Bronx as he could imagine. Possessed by a desire to play the drums, Palmieri joined his uncle’s orchestra at age 13, where he played the timbales. Says Palmieri, “By 15, it was good-bye timbales’ and back to the piano until this day. I’m a frustrated percussionist, so I take it out on the piano.”
He began his professional career as a pianist in the early 1950s with Eddie Forrester’s Orchestra. In 1955 he joined Johnny Segui’s band. He spent a year with the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra before forming his own band, the legendary Conjunto La Perfecta in 1961. La Perfecta featured a trombone section (led by the late Barry Rogers) in place of trumpets, something that had been rarely done in Latin music, and which demonstrated the early stages of Palmieri’s unconventional means of orchestration. They were known as “the band with the crazy roaring elephants” for the configuration of two trombones, flute, percussion, bass and vocalist. With an infectious and soaring sound, Palmieri’s band soon joined the ranks of Machito, Tito Rodriguez, and the other major Latin orchestras of the day.
Palmieri’s influences include not only his older brother Charlie but Jesus Lopez, Chapotin, Lili Martinez and other Cuban players of the 1940s and jazz legends Art Tatum, Bobby Timmons, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Equally important were influences derived from Palmieri’s curiosity and incessant search to unearth his family’s roots and seek out the origins of the music that profoundly inspired him.
“In Cuba, there was a development and crystallization of rhythmical patterns that have excited people for years,” said Palmieri. “Cuban music provides the fundamental from which I never move. Whatever has to be built must be built from there. It’s that cross-cultural effect that makes magnificent music.” His solid interpretation of Afro-Caribbean music and its confluence with jazz is evident in Eddie Palmieri’s astute arranging skills, which assemble those components in dramatic and compelling compositions.
His accomplishments have taken him through Europe, Japan and Latin America, showcasing his assemblage of seasoned musicians and kaleidoscope of musical styles. He served as a consultant to Paul Simon on his 1990 release Rhythm of the Saints and in 1993 was appointed to the board of governors of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science. As a member of the New York chapter, Palmieri was instrumental in creating a new category for Latin Jazz in 1995.
On his first salsa album in eleven years, El Rumbero del Piano, Palmieri returned to his roots as leader of one of Latin music’s most phenomenal dance bands. Accompanied by the finest musicians of New York and Puerto Rico, Palmieri presented a sensational combination of salsa, bomba, plena, son montuno and jazz. El Rumbero del Piano is a spectrum of memorable and danceable music in nine outstanding tracks, featuring vocals by Wichy Camacho and Herman Olivera, two of Latin music’s most inspiring singers.
In his modern version of Arsenio Rodriguez’s classic “Oigan mi Guaguanco ” Palmieri pays tribute to Rodriguez, the great Cuban tres player, one of the founding fathers of today’s tropical music. Puerto Rican customs and culture are the centerpiece of the bomba tune “El Dueño Monte” in which the vocalists pay tribute to other legendary figures of Puerto Rico’s folk music, including singer Ismael Rivera and the musicians of the Cepeda family.
In “Donde Esta mi Negra” Palmieri gives new life to a genre known as “the people’s newspaper”—the plena. This is the first plena Palmieri has composed and arranged. Another treat is a salsa version of “La Malagueña Salerosa” composed by Pedro Galindo and Elpidio Ramírez. The final track, “Para que Escuchen” is pure Palmieri, urging listeners to hear the talking drum.
On his exuberant Concord Picante debut, La Perfecta II, Eddie Palmieri took a salsified, mambo-rific trip down memory lane and bought an updated twist of his famed 1960s ensemble to a whole new generation of Latin music lovers.
Now that Tito Puente is gone, Palmieri accepts the passing of the Latin music leader baton and is happy to consider himself a Latin jazz ambassador to the world.
“Tito helped extend this music to all parts of the world, and as long as I am still healthy and energetic, I will continue to record and tour to keep this wonderful legacy alive,” says Palmieri. “The rhythms continue to excite because they keep evolving, just as they did when the African captives who started them were taken to the Caribbean. It’s a matter of finding new ways to utilize these complicated patterns and then create exciting new arrangements for my ensemble.”
“We’ve been together for many years and work like a good baseball team,” adds Palmieri of his band. “What matters is how we take care of specific synchronizations, and a lot of that takes place first in my head. The structure is there, and I look at it sometimes as a mathematical equation. But then, it must translate to emotion, and that’s where the reaction of the audience comes in.” He jokes about choosing the title of his 2003 album, “I like the sound of Ritmo Caliente on Concord Picante. It is hot and spicy, like the music.” On the CD, Palmieri combines hard core salsa and hard Latin jazz with his classical and chamber string influences. “Concord has been wonderful in offering me this ability to keep taking musical risks,” he said.
In 2005, Palmieri received a series of prestigious awards: he received the Alice Tully African Heritage Award from City College, received the Harlem Renaissance Award and was inducted into both the Bronx Walk of Fame and the Chicago Walk of Fame. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Urban Latino Magazine. He acted as Godfather of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City and received the EL Award from El Diario Newspaper. Yet another outstanding achievement that year was the debut of “Caliente ” a radio show hosted by Mr. Palmieri on National Public Radio, making him the first Latino ever to do so. The show has been a tremendous success, being picked up by more than 16 radio stations nationwide.
In 2006, Palmieri’s Listen Here! won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. Simpático, released in 2007, a collaborative effort with trumpet master Brian Lynch, won the 2007 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album. Simpático was also recognized by the Jazz Journalist Association as Best Latin Jazz Album that same year.
Awards and accolades
Eddie Palmieri received his first Grammy Award in 1975 for his release The Sun of Latin Music, which is often considered the most historic, as it was the first time Latin Music was recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).
Palmieri was awarded the Eubie Blake Award by Dr. Billy Taylor in 1991 and is among the few Hispanic musicians recognized by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico and the New York State Assembly. In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution recorded two of Palmieri’s performances for their catalog of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., a rare public honor.
The 1998 Heineken Jazz Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, paid tribute to his contributions as a bandleader, bestowing him an honorary doctorate degree from the Berklee College of Music.
Palmieri remains a powerhouse of brilliance and sound that has stirred audiences for more than 3 decades years, continually and successfully seeking to captivate and elevate the senses, and taking them down paths of intensity to a place where there are no musical boundaries.
Orchestra Fuego is a great classic salsa band from the Tampa Bay area in Florida. The high energy twelve-piece band composes its own material and their old school style incorporates Cuban and Nuyorican elements. In addition to salsa, the band also performs other Latin American music genres such as merengue, bolero, bachata and cha cha chá.
The band is led by two musicians from New York City’s salsa scene, pianist and musical director Marcus Hernandez and lead vocalist Luis “Torpedo” Aponte, who reunited in Florida several years after moving from New York.
Orchestra Fuego plays irresistible hip-shaking salsa and deserves more attention outside of its region.
Bandleader Oquendo was a veteran of the days when Latin bands crowded into a studio to polish off a recording in an all-night session. “The first recording (singer) Tito Rodriguez did we took the 7th Avenue train to record for SMC label,” Oquendo recalled. “Tito Puente did the arrangements. You recorded on monaural with just a few mikes. You couldn’t stop and overdub. You just played.”
Oquendo’s musical education consisted of the old-school,just play” approach and he was in the right place to learn. He grew up on Kelly Street in the Bronx New York not far from the great Cuban tres player Arsenio Rodriguez. Colin Powell who’d later become a general lived on the block too so did pianist Noro Morales. And a lot of kids who’d later make their names in Latin music such as Joe Cuba the Palmieri brothers Little Ray Romero grew up playing stickball on Kelly Street.
One floor down from the Oquendo apartment was the Almacenes Hernandez record shop. “There was music constantly coming out of that store and that was my education,” Oquendo recalled. He became an expert on Cuban rhythms and began playing bongo and timbales with a succession of New York’s top bands.
Manny Oquendo died on March 25, 2009
Increible (1981. Reissued by Sony Discos Inc. 8397 2000)