'Very highly recommended, regardless of whether your interest lies in folkloric or...
John Armstrong 2004-10-07
Imagine The Beatles and The Stones amalgamating for a recording project as 'Beatles and Stones'. Curious, no? Well, two leading Puerto Rican bands have been doing just that for three album's worth of great music, and the formula works beautifully.
Zaperoko have been well-known to quality latin dance music aficionados for two decades, ever since their groundbreaking debut release Cosa De Locos (1983, Montuno Records). Conceivedby trombonist Edwin Feliciano, inspired in part by a musical tour of Cuba, the album was the first (apart, perhaps, from 1979's Cortijo masterpiece La Maquina Del Tiempo) to fuse Cuban' Songo with Puerto Rican' salsa and folkloric elements, Brazilian samba, and several other flavours from jazz and funk.
Hector Valentin's traditional Boricuan plena and bomba group Truco, on the other hand, have a twenty-five year reputation as unflinching modernisers of Puerto Rico's two main indigenous song-forms.
The beauty and originality of the loose amalgamation of these two very different latin bands come across effectively and concisely on this, perhaps their strongest collective album to date. Feliciano's policy of encouraging jazz improvisation among his soloists bears fine fruit in the more modal jazz-salsa pieces, such as "Miedo Y Terror" and "Papa Son". But the two groups aren't too proud to turn their hand to strictly folkloric airs, such as "En El Cafe" (strangely enough, a Cuban song - but very 'Rican' in tone here), "Senora Plena", or "Maria Luisa", the unusual instrumentation for such traditional pieces giving them a fresh lease of life.
From the percussion viewpoint, Cuban bata and Puerto Rican quinto and requinto students will be thrilled to hear the subtle difference in technique from Afro-Cuban styles demonstrated here by the mighty Maysonet brothers, one of the island's most famous Afro-Rican percussion families. In particular, the Afro-Rican drumming styles shine in "Miedo y Terror" (again) and in "No Se Lo Que Paso".
Elsewhere, pianist/Rhodes keyboardist Jose Lugo plays fiercely, with an Eddie Palmieri-esque left-hand technique, whilst the unmistakable Puerto Rican 'trombanga' style is pinned down by Edwin himself and fellow 'bone-players Luis Quinones and Tonito Vasquez.
Vocals are handled largely by Richard Martinez and Luis Gonzalez, as on the previous two albums. Particularly impressive is Martinez' Spanish version of the Brazilian Chico Buarque favourite "Cotidiano".
Very highly recommended, regardless of whether your interest lies in folkloric or modern Caribbean and New York latin idioms.