Bringing Back the Classics



with Carlos Rosario


I was born on June 27, 1959 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. In 1965, at the tender age of five, I was bought to New York where I lived with my parents on 112th street and Second Avenue in El Barrio. My parents divorced in 1966 and my sister, mom and I moved to Cypress Avenue and 138th Street in the Bronx. I wasn't into Latin music at the time, my passion  was pop, R&B, and mainly Beatles music. But in 1974, I began listening to a radio show on WEVD FM with host Joe Gaines. He played some great stuff which was new to me at the time. My older sister was into Latin music and also would turn me on to some of the hits on radio at that time, but it wasn't until I heard Ray Barretto's "El Hijo De Obatala" that I became hooked me on salsa music. I also took an interest in learning to play percussion instruments--the bongo (my first love) and then the timbales.  I attended Johnny Colón’s East Harlem music school in 1975, studying with Manny Oquendo and Frankie Malabe. In 1976, I started private lessons with Pablito Rosario of Orchestra Harlow, but soon he had to leave New York and move back to Puerto Rico. He had asked me who else besides him was my idol and I replied, José Mangual, Jr.  So three days later I get a call from Mangual and we set up a lesson session at his home in Astoria, Queens. After the lesson I pulled out my wallet to pay, but Mangual refused to accept, and from that moment on we became close friends.  I remained with him until he launched his solo singing career. In 1995, I met a college student at Columbia University by the name of Germán Santana, and together we co-hosted a show on Monday nights called "Caribe Latino," which is still on air. In 1999, WHCR City College radio host and Eddie Palmieri percussionist Jose Clausell asked me about taking over his show when he would tour with Palmieri. That program, "El Rincon Caliente," really was a blessing for me as I had four hours on air every Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately I departed in 2002, and have been off radio ever since, something that I will regret for the rest of my life. Now in 2016, I have a music group on Facebook called "Our Latin Thing," about the history and roots of this music that we call salsa. I post music, videos, and write up album reviews (old and new) but it's all about old school salsa and Latin Jazz.  I also post a link called "Oral History," about the instruments and performers of Latin music.  ◊◊◊


Eddie Palmieri, 

Elektra Nonesuch Records, (EN-7559)

 Review by Carlos Rosario

Eddie Palmieri's "Palmas" starts at full speed and doesn't stop, except for some throughout extended piano noodling on "Bolero Dos."  The band features three jazz horn players (trumpet, trombone, and saxophone) in front of a smokin’ Latin rhythm section, all held together by the maestro on piano. Palmieri typically starts off a number with familiar Latin piano patterns which quickly evolve into completely innovative chord combinations. The horn players take the listener on some musical adventures in each of these extended tunes,flying ahead, but always coming back to the theme. The percussionists keep their complex beat for the most part, but occasionally swap rhythmic places with the horns as the timbales or bongos take a solo while the brass pumps out the time. Palmieri's style has evolved significantly over the decades.  Fans of his older salsa material will be surprised by "Palmas" and listeners who discover this man through "Palmas" will be surprised when they seek out older material. But be careful, listening reveals surprising constancies in Palmieri's piano playing over the years. Be ready for a trip on this one.




Side A 1. Palmas 2. Slowvisor 3. Mare Nostrum 4. You Dig

Side B 1. Doctor Duck 2. Bolero Dos 3. Bouncer

Personnel: Eddie Palmieri: Leader, Acoustic Grand Piano John Benitez: Electric Fender Bass Jose Claussell: Timbales Anthony Carrillo: Bongo, Cowbell Ritchie Flores: Congas Robby Ameen: Trap Drums Donald Harrison: Alto Saxophone Conrad Herwig: Trombone Brian Lynch: Trumpet

Musical Arrangements by: Brian Lynch Conrad Herwig Eddie Palmieri

Produced by: Eddie Palmieri Executive Producer: Robert A. Krasnow Recording Director: Eddie Palmieri

Album Cover Photo: Joel Meyerowitz Album Cover Design: James Victore

Recording Engineer: Joe Ferla

Mixed by: Jon Fausty

Recorded @: The Hit Factory, NYC





El Gran Combo, 

Combo Records, 1980

 Review by Carlos Rosario


El Gran Combo entered the 1980's on a high note with "Unity," one of the many five-star albums the Puerto Rican outfit has recorded over the years.  By 1980, El Gran Combo had long since earned a reputation for being one of Puerto Rico's most dependable, hard swinging salsa units and the band lives up to its fine reputation on such exuberant, infectious cuts as "Panquelero," "El Licor De Tu Boquita," "De Todo Un Poco," and "Pico Pico."  The latter, written by Perin Vazquez, is an ode to Puerto Rico that underscores El Gran Combo’s heritage - salsa experts will tell you that the unit is a Puerto Rican institution, although it's important to remember that salsa/Afro-Cuban music originated in Cuba.  From the heartfelt vocals of Jerry Rivas and Charlie Aponte to El Gran Combo's tight horn section and its first class percussionists, all of the pieces fall into place perfectly on this excellent LP.



Side A

1. Companera Mia

2. La Cicatriz

3. De Todo Un Poco

4. Yo No La Toco


Side B

1. Te Regalo El Corazon

2. El Licor De Tu Boquita

3. Panquelero

4. Pico Pico



Rafael Itheir:  Leader, Acoustic Grand Piano

Taty Maldonado:  Trumpet

Victor E. Rodriguez:  Trumpet

Eddie Perez:  Alto Saxophone

Freddy Miranda:  Tenor Saxophone

Fanny Caballos:  Trombone

Fernando Perez:   Ampeg Baby Bass

Edgardo Morales:  Timbales

Baby Serrano:  Bongo, Cowbell

Miguel Torres:  Conga

Lead Vocals:

Jerry Rivas

Charlie Aponte


Jerry Rivas

Charlie Aponte

Papo Rosario


Musical Arrangements by: Rafael Itheir

Produced by: Ralph Cartagena

Executive Producer: Ralph Cartagena

Recording Director: Rafael Itheir

Album Cover Liner Photo: Kuri Diaz

Album Cover Artwork: Lisa Cartagena

Recording Engineers:                                                              

Alfredo Li

Jon Fausty


Recorded @: Ochoa Recording Studios, San Juan, P.R.





Westside Latino Records (WS-31083) 1971


 Review by Carlos Rosario

Hector Rivera has been compared to Louie Ramirez and stands in the category of triple threat composer, arranger, and musician.  Hector put together what is possibly the very best of the hard salsa recordings for the famed Westside Latino label.  Hector shifts back to more traditional Latino styles after the Spanish Harlem sets from the '60s. The album has a strong nascent salsa groove and features a great band, with Hector's piano bouncing along the top, and a four-trumpet line providing support.

Instrumentation is impeccable, really going for a solid and focused approach that makes the album stand out from the pack, with vocals by Louis Rodriguez, Mike Ruiz, and Julian Llanos.  From the first track "Ahi Viene La Lenguetera" penned by Tite Curet Alonso, it is evident that Hector swings hard. The album is a hard-hitting Havana by the way of Harlem session, aiming straight for the head, heart, and feet of Latinos everywhere.



Side A  1. Ahi Viene La Lenguetera 2. Ven Puchunga 3. Encantado De La Vida 4. Yo No Quiero Lio 5. Cierren La Puerta, Senores

Side B 1.  Accelerando 2. Amalia Los Invita 3. Si Bailas Tu 4. Imagenes  5. Guaguanco Para Los Pollitos

Musical Arrangements by: Hector Rivera

Produced by: Joe Cain & Bobby Marin, Executive Producer: Francisco Cabrera

Musical Director: Hector Rivera

Album Cover & Liner Photos: Dominique, Album Cover Design: Ely Belasol

Recording Engineers: Eddie Smith, Johnny Cue

Recorded @: Mayfair Recording, NYC Capital Sound, NYC





RCA Victor Records (RCA-74321)


 Review by Carlos Rosario


In this program of mainly Afro-Cubanized jazz standards, conga drummer Ray Barretto has assembled an all-star group of friends to complement his regular working New World Spirit band. The icons include longtime friend Kenny Burrell, whose guitar playing is a key component in the makeup of every selection. Bassist Eddie Gomez, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and trombonist Steve Turre join such up-and-coming younger musicians as trumpeter John Bailey, saxophonist Adam Kolker and pianist John DiMartino. Second percussionist Bobby Sanabria is alongside, as is the outstanding trap drummer and longtime Barretto bandmate Vince Cherico. The recording is bookended by Duke Ellington's music. It's front-loaded with "The Mooche," ignited by a simmering bass and left-hand piano ostinato plucked from Horace Silver's "Señor Blues." Conch-shell moans from Turre and punchy congas intro this classic, with Burrell's second melody lead and horns on the first and third. "Cotton Tail" is a good swinger with Latin underpinnings and loads of Burrell (refer to Burrell and Barretto on Burrell's classic Bluenote date "Midnight Blue). At the end of the album is a lesser-known "Oclupaca," taken as a steamy cha cha. Also included is Billy Strayhorn's "Johnny Came Lately," which has clave/mambo rhythms buoying echoed trumpet and tenor lines talking back and fourth. The interplay of this counterpoint is stunning, again kicked off by the fuse of Burrell's guitar. There's the fluttery horn intro and dueling tenors on John Coltrane's "Like Sonny," the slight tango-ish "Lamento Borincano" and its heavy dose of Latin Burrell, and the laid-back horns setting up demure-to-forceful piano by DiMartino on Wayne Shorter's "Go." Then there's Thelonious Monk's brisk and brusque "I Mean You," cooked by the unison horns to golden brown perfection with claves, montuno piano and a patented deft bass solo from the brilliant Gomez. A most Afro-Cuban "Cancion Del Fuego Fatuo" is quite subtle, Burrell again the focal point with much to say beneath and above the surface. Of the many fine recordings Barretto has produced in the past thirty years as a leader, this ranks right up in the top three, due to the undeniable musicianship of his select guests, the innate ability of his own band, and the meticulous selection of jazz pieces whipped into tangy salsa. It's a winning, highly recommended combination.

Enjoy! ◊◊◊

Side A

1. The Mooche *

2. Cotton Tail *

3. Johnny Came Lately **

4. Cancion Del Fuego Fatuo ***

5. I Mean You ***


Side B

1.. Go ***

2. Like Sonny ***

3. Lamento Borincano **

4. Oclupaca *


Personnel: Ray Barretto: Leader, Congas Adam Kolker: Tenor & Soprano Saxophone John Bailey: Trumpet John DiMartino: Acoustic Grand Piano Vince Cherico: Trap Drums Bobby Sanabria: Percussion

Special Invited Guest Stars: Kenny Burrell: Electric Guitar Joe Lovano: Tenor Saxophone Steve Turre: Trombone, Shells Eddie Gomez: Acoustic Bass

Musical Arrangements by: Micheal P. Mossman * John DiMartino ** Adam Kolker ***

Produced by: Ray Barretto & Jean-Jacques Pussiau Executive Producer: Daniel Baumgarden

Album Cover Art & Design: Bernard Amiard

Recording Engineer: Joe Marciano

Recorded @: System Two Studios, Brooklyn, New York








Columbia Records (AL-30595)


 Review by Carlos Rosario


Santana III is an album that undeservingly stands in the shadows behind the towering legend that is the band's second album, "Abraxas." This was also the album that brought guitarist Neal Shon - who was seventeen years old -  into the original core line-up of Santana. Percussionists Tomas "Coke" Escovedo was brought in to replace (temporarily) Jose "Chepito" Areas, who suffered a brain aneurysm, yet recovered quickly and rejoined the band. The rest were Carlos, organist Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Schireve, bassist David Brown, and conguero Michael Carabello. "Batuka" is the powerful first evidence of something being very different. The band was more raw, darker, and more powerful with twin leads and Shon's harder, edgier rock & roll sound, paired with Carlos' blend of ecstatic high notes and soulful fills. It cooks funky, mean, and tough. "Batuka" immediately transforms itself into "No One To Depend On," by Escovedo, Carabello and Rolie. The middle section is highlighted by frantic handclaps, call-and-response lines between Schon and Rolie, and Carlos joining the fray until the entire track explodes into a frenzied finale. And what's most remarkable is that the set just keeps on cooking from the subtle slow burn of "Taboo" to the percussive jam workout that is "Toussaint L' Overture," a live staple in the band's set list recorded here for the first time, and featuring some cooking Rolie organ work at its beginning. 

"Everybody's Everything" is here, as is "Guajira" and "Jungle Strut" - tunes that are still part of Santana's fragile lead vocal. "Everything's Coming Our Way" is the only 'feel good' track here, but it's a fitting way to begin winding the album down with its Schon and Santana guitar breaks.

The album ends with a completely transformed reading of Tito Puente's "Para Los Rumberos," complete with horns and frantic, almost insanely fast hand drumming and cowbell playing. It's an album that has aged extremely well due to its spare production by Carlos and the band, and i's live sound. This is essential Santana, a record that deserves to be reconsidered in light of its lasting abundance and vision. A must have for Santana aficionados and a must have in your record collection. It is in mine.

Enjoy!  ◊◊◊           

Side A
1. Batuka 
2. No One To Depend On
3. Taboo
4. Toussaint L' Overture

Side B
1. Everybody's Everything
2. Guajira
3. Jungle Strut
4. Everything's Coming Our Way
5. Para Los Rumberos

Carlos Santana: Leader, Electric Guitar, Vocals
Jose "Chepito" Areas: Timbales, Conga, Percussion, Vocals, Trap Drums, Flugelhorn 
David Brown: Electric Fender Bass
Michael P.R. Carabello: Congas, Percussion, Vocals, Tambourine
Gregg Rolie: Acoustic Grand Piano, Hammond B-3 Organ, Vocals
Neal Schon: Electric Guitar
Michael Shrieve: Trap Drums, Percussion, Vibes

Lead Vocals: Rico Reyes (B2)

Carlos Santana
Michael P.R. Carabello
Gregg Rolie
Rico Reyes
Coke Escovedo
Linda Tillery (B1, B4)

Special Invited Guest Stars:
Coke Escovedo: Percussion 
Rico Reyes: Vocals (B2)
Tower Of Power Horn Section (B1)
Luis Gasca: Trumpet (B5)
Linda Tillery: Background Vocals (B1, B4)
Mario Ochoa: Acoustic Grand Piano solo (B2)
Gregg Errico: Tambourine (A2)

Musical Arrangements by:
Gregg Rolie
Coke Escovedo 
Carlos Santana

Produced by: Santana Musicians
Executive Producer: Stan Milstein

Album Cover Design: Heavy Water Light

Recording Engineers: Glen Kolotkin & Mike Larner

Recorded @: Columbia Recording Studios, San Francisco, Ca.







Vaya Records (VS-80)


Review by Carlos Rosario

Legendary Cuban Latin singer Celia Cruz is in wonderful company here -- working alongside some great grooves from the equally legendary Johnny Pacheco!


Johnny Pacheco has a way of keeping things clean and lean throughout-- in a mode that mixes '70s salsa impulses with some of the older, more traditional modes of Celia's roots.  But always handled with a style and sound that reflects the album's importance on the '70s New York scene!


I honestly dig Celia's vocals more in this setting than on some of her older recordings, and Johnny Pacheco knows how to set just the right sort of spark that allows her to flame on titles that include the opener "Danza Del Cocoye," "Flor De Mayo," "El Guaba,” "El Bajio," "Saludo Celestial," "Yembe Laroco," and "El Celoso.


There's never a dull tune on this classic Afro-Caribbean dance album.  It swings with great arrangements and solid production. This is indeed a must-have for all Celia and Pacheco aficionados and a must-have for any serious record collection.  It is in mine.




1. Danza Del Cocoye

2. Flor De Mayo

3. La Vara Y La Moneda

4. El Guaba

5. Tengo Un Carinito



1. El Celoso

2. Yembe Laroco

3. Saludo Celestial

4. El Bajio



Johnny Pacheco: Leader, Guiro, Quinto

Papo Lucca: Acoustic Grand Piano

Johnny Rodriguez: Conga

Luis Mangual: Bongo, Cowbell

Luis "Perico" Ortiz: Trumpet

Hector "Bomberito" Zarzuela: Trumpet

Victor Venegas: Ampeg Baby Bass

Charlie Rodriguez: Tres

Ismael Quintana: Maracas


Lead Vocals: Celia Cruz



Johnny Pacheco

Ramon Rodriguez


Musical Arrangements by:

Johnny Pacheco

Bobby Valentín

Louie Ramírez

Sonny Bravo


Produced by: Johnny Pacheco

Executive Producer: Jerry Masucci

Recording Director: Johnny Pacheco


Album Cover Art & Design: Ron Levine


Recording Engineer: Irv Greenbaum


Recorded @: La Tierra Sound Studios, NYC









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