Gilberto Calderón –known in the music world as Joe Cuba and nicknamed “El Alma del Barrio,” the title of one of his most successful albums– began his career in the 1950s, but he didn’t achieve fame, fortune, or success until a decade later.
Although he can’t be considered the creator of a sextet as a musical group, he was the man behind the transitional period of the great orchestra; he also put into practice an innovative and simple formula based on a rhythmic sound in which he shone as composer and director.
It should be pointed out, also, that on his albums he adopted a contagious, vibrant sound dubbed “salsa.” He was one of the early pioneers of this musical genre.
Early in his career, Joe Cuba was known for performing songs in English; however, well aware of his roots and the history of telling the story of his daily life to his compatriots, he crossed the language barrier and began singing and composing in Spanish. This change enriched his extensive and successful discography.
For more information about this artist visit the wikipedia site by clicking here.
Gilberto Calderón conocido en el ambiente musical como Joe Cuba y apodado “El Alma del Barrio” como se titula una de sus más exitosas producciones, inició su carrera durante la década de los años cincuenta, pero alcanza notoriedad, reconocimiento y fama una década después.
Aunque no se le puede considerar el creador de un sexteto como agrupación musical, sí le favoreció el haber sido protagonista de la transición del período en el que brillaban en el panorama musical las grandes orquestas y poner en práctica una fórmula innovadora y sencilla basada en un sonido rítmico en el que se destacó como compositor y director.
Es significativo señalar también, el haber adoptado en sus producciones, por entonces, un naciente sonido contagioso y vibrante al que se le denominó “Salsa” de que es uno de sus más connotados impulsores en su etapa inicial.
Al comienzo de su carrera, Joe Cuba se caracterizó por interpretar letras en inglés, pero consciente de sus raíces y del acontecer del diario vivir de su gente, traspasó la barrera del idioma interpretando y componiendo temas en español que enriquecieron su extensa y exitosa discografía.
Para obtener más información acerca de este artista visite la pagina de Wikipedia haciendo clic aquí.
|Do You Feel It ? (Remix)|
|Hey Joe, Hey Joe|
|El Pito (I'll Never Go Back to Georgia)|
|My Man Speedy!|
|A Thousand Ways|
|Ain't It Funny What Love Can Do|
|Y Joe Cuba Ya Llegó|
|Boom Boom Lucumí|
|A Las Seis|
|Joe Cuba's Mambo|
|To Be With You|
|Hecho Y Derecho|
|Pregón Cha Cha|
|This Is Love|
|Mambo Of The Times|
The Joe Cuba Sextet recorded countless hits across the decades, each embodying the soul of Spanish Harlem and capturing the sounds of the first generation of New York Puerto Ricans. With hustler instincts, Joe and his band—originally consisting of Jimmy Sabater on timbales and vocals, Tommy Berrios on vibes, Nick Jiménez on piano, Roy Rosa on bass (replaced early on by Jules Cordero), and Willie Torres on vocals—reinvented the Latin sound several times over. There’s little doubt that salsa owes its swagger and swing to Joe Cuba. Joe’s pride for his neighborhood spilled over into his playing, made his sound contagious, and birthed a movement reflective of Spanish Harlem’s vibrant soul. Joe’s unique childhood gave him a cross-cultural perspective that would later imbue his music. Born to Puerto Rican parents struggling to survive the Great Depression, a young Gilberto Navarro (later, Calderón) and his brother grew up in foster care with a White, English-speaking family on Staten Island. After five years, Joe and his brother were reunited with their mother, Gloria, in Spanish Harlem, where he first heard Spanish being spoken. Rediscovering his language and roots at such a young age gave Joe a special appreciation of his heritage. New to the hood, Joe earned his stripes sliding hard into makeshift bases while playing stickball on the concrete of 116th Street—they would run away from police in the back-ally canyons of Spanish Harlem when games would get broken up; they would chill on stoops in the evening and kick game to the girls from around the way. He started his music career at the end of his stickball career: “I broke my leg sliding into second base, and I was in a cast for a while. So a friend of mine lent me his conga, and I would practice to Machito records.” Like many aspiring Latino musicians in the U.S. at that time, Joe found inspiration in the Cuban-born Latin jazz legend Machito, but growing up next door to the scene’s future talent also helped. “There were a lot of musicians on my block,” he said. “Santo Miranda, Negrito Pantoja, and Sabu Martinez, these guys would hang out on the block and motivate me.” When Sabu Martinez took a job in Hollywood, Joe replaced him and became the conguero for La Alfarona X, New York City’s first Puerto Rican trumpet conjunto. It was a short stint (Sabu eventually came back to claim his spot in the band), but Joe got a taste of what it was like to be a musician: “If you were a regular guy, the girls would just walk by, but if you were playing an instrument and singing a coro, they’d stop! And then you could rap to them.” The band gained momentum after sonero José “Cheo” Feliciano replaced Willie Torres in 1958. Cheo’s swingin’ and smooth singing in Spanish complemented Jimmy Sabater’s crooner-style English vocals, giving the band appeal to both English and Spanish audiences. “Cheo had a thick accent; that’s when they put me in to sing in English,” Jimmy remembers. “Cheo would sing one bolero in Spanish, and I would sing one in English.” It was this combination that made the sextet’s Seeco Records debut, Steppin’ Out, a crossover hit. Laced with hits like “A las Seis” and “To Be With You,” Steppin’ Out displayed the band’s bilingual versatility and dual shades of Nuyorican soul. The band perfected their bilingual harmony with “Bang! Bang!” the monster hit that inspired Latin soul and boogaloo, striking a chord with New York’s growing bilingual Puerto Rican community. Gritty and slightly offbeat, “Bang! Bang!” was a tour of Harlem put to music. The love for home and the swagger that the Joe Cuba Sextet brought to their music inspired the same pride, love, and attitude in younger musicians. For all his pride, Joe never took all the credit for salsa himself. He recognized the work put in before him and the contributions of his peers: “In the ’50s, our music broke out, especially when Rodríguez, Puente, and Machito started opening doors downtown at the Palladium; and then I came along with my sound, and Eddie [Palmieri] came with his trombone, and Pacheco started Fania; we were building.” More than his innovation to New York Latin music, Joe will always be remembered for the love he brought to his music. For him, fame was secondary; representing his barrio and the joy of playing were enough. - Liner notes by Kristofer Ríos El Sexteto de Joe Cuba grabó innumerables éxitos a través de las décadas, cada uno representando el alma de Spanish Harlem y capturando los sonidos de la primera generación de puertorriqueños neoyorquinos. Con sus instintos bravos, Joe y su banda—la cual consistía originalmente de Jimmy Sabater en los timbales y vocalización, Tommy Berrios en el vibráfono, Nick Jiménez en el piano, Roy Rosa en el bajo (reemplazado poco después por Jules Cordero), y el vocalista Willie Torres—reinventaron el sonido Latino una y otra vez. No cabe duda de que la salsa le debe su vaivén y su swing a Joe Cuba. El orgullo que Joe sentía por su barrio contaminó su forma de tocar, convirtió su sonido en algo contagioso, y dio a nacer un movimiento que reflejaba el alma vibrante de Spanish Harlem. La niñez particular de Joe le proporcionó una perspectiva intercultural que más tarde impregnaría su música. Hijo de padres puertorriqueños que luchaban por sobrevivir la Gran Depresión, el joven Gilberto Navarro (más adelante Calderón) y su hermano crecieron en el hogar de acogida de una familia blanca de habla inglesa en Staten Island. Al cabo de cinco años, Joe y su hermano fueron reunidos con su madre Gloria en Spanish Harlem, donde por primera vez escuchó el idioma español. El descubrir nuevamente su idioma y sus raíces a tan temprana edad causó que Joe adquiriese una gran apreciación por su herencia. Siendo nuevo en el barrio, Joe se dio a respetar deslizándose en bases improvisadas mientras jugaba béisbol callejero en el cemento de la calle 116—huían de la policía en los enormes callejones de Spanish Harlem cuando se interrumpían los juegos; en la noche se sentaban en los escalones de los apartamentos y piropeaban a las muchachas del área. Comenzó su carrera musical al terminar su carrera como jugador: “Me rompí la pierna deslizándome en segunda base, y tuve puesto un yeso por un tiempo. Así que un amigo me prestó su conga y yo practicaba siguiendo los discos de Machito”. A igual que muchos músicos latinos aspirantes de esa época en los Estados Unidos, Joe encontró su inspiración en Machito, leyenda cubana del jazz latino, pero también le ayudó el criarse al lado de futuros talentos del género. “En mi cuadra había un montón de músicos”, dijo. “Santo Miranda, Negrito Pantoja y Sabú Martínez, esos tipos pasaban el rato conmigo en la cuadra, y me motivaban”. Cuando Sabú Martínez consiguió trabajo en Hollywood, Joe lo reemplazó y se convirtió en el conguero de La Alfarona X, el primer conjunto de trompetas puertorriqueño de Nueva York. El puesto no duró mucho tiempo (Sabú regresó eventualmente a reclamar su lugar en la banda), pero Joe pudo saborear lo que era ser músico: “Si tú eras un tipo regular, las muchachas simplemente te pasaban por el lado, pero si tocabas un instrumento y cantabas en un coro, ¡paraban! Y entonces sí podías conversar con ellas”. La banda ganó impulso luego de que el sonero José “Cheo” Feliciano reemplazara a Willie Torres en 1958. La manera suave y sutil de Cheo al cantar en español complementaba el estilo crooner en inglés de Sabater, lo cual gustaba tanto a las audiencias de habla hispana como las de habla inglesa. “Cheo tenía un acento bien fuerte; fue entonces cuando me pusieron a cantar en inglés”, recuerda Jimmy. Cheo cantaba un bolero en español, y yo cantaba uno en inglés”. Fue esta combinación la que causó que Steppin’ Out, el debut del sexteto con Seeco Records, fuera un éxito en los mercados de ambos idiomas. Con temas como “A las Seis” y “To Be With You”, Steppin’ Out demostró la versatilidad bilingüe de la banda y el doble matiz del alma nuyorican. La banda perfeccionó su armonía bilingüe con “Bang! Bang!”, el rotundo éxito que inspiró el soul latino y el boogaloo, alcanzando a la creciente comunidad bilingüe puertorriqueña de Nueva York. Áspera y levemente fuera de ritmo, “Bang! Bang!” era una vuelta por Harlem hecha música. El amor por el hogar y la actitud que trajo a su música el Sexteto de Joe Cuba inspiraron el mismo orgullo, amor y actitud en los músicos más jóvenes. A pesar de su orgullo, Joe nunca tomó todo el crédito por la creación de la salsa. Reconoció todo el trabajo que se llevó a cabo antes que el de él, y los aportes de sus compañeros. “En los años 50 nuestra música estalló, especialmente cuando Rodríguez, Puente y Machito comenzaron a abrir puertas en el downtown en el Palladium, y entonces llegué yo con mi sonido, y Eddie [Palmieri] llegó con su trombón, y Pacheco fundó a Fania. Estábamos construyendo”. Más que por su innovación a la música latina de Nueva York, Joe será recordado siempre por el amor que le trajo a su música. Para él, la fama era tema secundario; representar a su barrio y el placer de tocar eran suficiente. Notas de portada: Kristofer Ríos
The Joe Cuba Sextet
“Let’s just try it out, Sonny, if it doesn’t work, I’ll buy you a double”. The place: Palm Gardens Ballroom, mid-town Manhattan. The year: 1966. Singer Jimmy Sabater was trying to persuade his bandleader, José “Sonny” Calderón, or Joe Cuba, to implement a new idea that Sabater had in mind for some time. Reluctantly, Cuba agreed. Sabater gave pianist Nick Jiménez the tumbao (rhythm figure) and in an instant, the mainly African-American Harlem audience was singing along: “Beep beep… hah… beep beep…’” And that, more or less, is how one of 1960’s Nuyorican music’s biggest hits, Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push was born.
Although Richie Ray’s Jala Jala Boogaloo was probably the first release to mention “boogaloo,” and, according to Sabater, was the inspiration for Bang! Bang!, it’s still fair to say that Joe Cuba and his band developed the boogaloo (bugalú ) genre to a pitch that made it acceptable to even the most hardened old-school Cuban musicians and listeners. The success of this Joe Cuba album explains in some way how Latin funk and boogaloo came about. As neighbors, African-American and Puerto Rican New Yorkers had been enjoying each other’s parties and music for years. Many seminal vocalists—such as Sabater himself, Bobby Marin and others—spent the early 1950’s catching the doo-wop echoes on the Harlem stoops with the many street-corner vocal groups of the time. Meanwhile, doo-woppers such as the Harptones were giving a reciprocal tip of the hat to Cuban and Puerto Rican peers with songs such as Mambo Boogie and Hey Señorita. Sabater himself was once quoted as describing boogaloo as “just cha cha cha with a backbeat.”
Before signing with Tico Records in 1965, New York-born vibraharpist Cuba already had a solid track record as a popular performer with cross-racial appeal, just as happy to sing vocals in Spanish as in English. He had ridden the earlier pachanga and Afro-Cuban crazes with fine releases on the Mardi Gras, Embajador and Seeco labels, when his band had featured the superb Spanish-language vocals of Cheo Feliciano. The 1962 Seeco album, Steppin’ Out, featured the massive hit ballad To Be With You, as well as the prototype salsa-descarga A Las Seis.
So it came as little surprise to those Latin musicians and fans “in the know” that Cuba’s magic touch should also extend to boogaloo. The watershed for boogaloo was the collapse of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington, D.C., in 1961. New York’s pachanga and mambo crazes had relied on a steady flow of musical talent back and forth between the United States and Cuba, but suddenly, there was a void of talent, new “sounds” and new crazes. Enter the always present influence of African-America jazz and R&B, as well as the stripped-down, versatile six-piece line-up that was Cuba’s real innovation. Without a massive horn section to arrange for, new trends could be harnessed to the Latin chariot quickly and easily, and a multi-cultural, music-hungry public swiftly followed. So Cuba’s albums often had bi-lingual titles such Vagabundeando/Hangin’ Out or Cocinando La Salsa/Cookin’ The Salsa, etc. and were among the first artists to do so.
This particular album contains Cuba’s biggest-selling record of all time, Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push. The tune also was released as a seven-inch single and crossed over into the international pop charts. But there are other joys here that are too easily overlooked because of that title’s overarching success: check out singer Sabater’s salsa swing on Malanga Brava and Así Soy; or the descarga Cocinando, where the musicians encourage each other “off-mike.” Sock It To Me and Oh Yeah carry the required contemporaneous Harlem swagger, while the title track is neatly restated near the end of the record in Push, Push, Push, just in case we’d forgotten how good Bang!Bang! sounded at the beginning!
In the shadow of Cuba’s and Sabater’s unique talent, it would be too easy to overlook the valuable contributions of the other members of the sextet. The rhythm section was one of the tightest in town at that time (Cuba himself being part of it). And special praise goes to pianist Nick Jiménez who played with great swing throughout this session, as well as being responsible for arranging and co-composing many of their most popular selections. Listen to the way in which the vibes slot into the percussion arrangements. Of course, the vibraharp is technically a percussion instrument. But years of listening to Cal Tjader’s more measured, improvised approach to vibes had obscured its original strengths that Lionel Hampton had first highlighted—and which Joe Cuba took into the heart of Afro-Latin party music.
Written by John Armstrong
“Tratemos, Sonny, si no resulta, te invito un trago doble”. El lugar: Palm Gardens Ballroom, en el centro de Manhattan. El año: 1966. El cantante Jimmy Sabater estaba tratando de persuadir al líder de su orquesta, José “Sonny” Calderón, o Joe Cuba, de implementar una nueva idea que Sabater tenía en mente desde hacía algún tiempo. Con renuencia, Cuba aceptó. Sabater le dio al pianista Nick Jiménez el tumbao (figura rítmica) y en un instante la audiencia, principalmente afro-americanos de Harlem, estaba cantando: “Bip bip… aaaah… bip bip…" Y así, más o menos, es cómo nació uno de los mayores éxitos de la música Nuyoricana de los años sesenta, Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push
A pesar de que Jala Jala Boogaloo de Richie Ray, probablemente, fue el primer tema que menciona el “boogaloo” y, según Sabater, fue la inspiración para ¡Bang! ¡Bang!, es justo decir que Joe Cuba y su orquesta desarrollaron el género del boogaloo (bugalú) a un nivel que lo hizo aceptable incluso para los más duros músicos y oyentes de la vieja escuela cubana. El éxito de este álbum de Joe Cuba explica, de alguna manera, cómo se produjeron el funk latino y el boogaloo. Como vecinos, los afro-americanos y los puertorriqueños de Nueva York habían estado disfrutando, por años, las fiestas y música que ambas comunidades organizaban. Muchos vocalistas originales –como el mismo Sabater, Bobby Marín y otros- pasaron los primeros años de la década de los cincuenta adquiriendo los ecos del doo-wop, apoyados en los postes de alumbrado de Harlem, viendo a los grupos vocales que se paraban en las esquinas en esos años. En tanto, los músicos de doo-wop, como los Harptones, hacían un saludo recíproco a sus colegas cubanos y puertorriqueños con canciones como Mambo Boggie y Hey Señorita. Hay una cita del mismo Sabater en que describe al boogaloo como “sólo un cha cha cha con un ritmo de fondo.”
Antes de firmar con Tico Records en 1965, Cuba, vibrafonista y arpista nacido en Nueva York, ya tenía un historial sólido como cantante popular con un encanto que iba más allá de su raza, feliz de cantar letras tanto en español como en inglés. Él había incursionado en las anteriores modas afro-cubana y de la pachanga, con excelentes trabajos para los sellos Mardi Gras, Embajador y Seeco, cuando su orquesta contaba con la soberbia voz en español de Cheo Feliciano. El álbum grabado en 1962 con Seeco, Steppin’ Out incluía el gran éxito, la balada To Be With You, al igual que el prototipo de salsa-descarga A Las Seis.
Por eso fue no fue una gran sorpresa para aquellos músicos y fanáticos latinos “en el medio”, que el toque mágico de Cuba también se extendiera al boogaloo. El momento decisivo para el boogaloo fue el quiebre de las relaciones diplomáticas entre La Habana y Washington D.C., en 1961. El furor de la pachanga y el mambo de Nueva York habían dependido de un flujo continuo de talento musical, que iba y venía entre los Estados Unidos y Cuba, pero, de pronto, hubo un vacío de talentos, nuevos “sonidos” y nuevas modas. Llega la siempre existente influencia del jazz afro-americano y del R&B, así como la simple y versátil formación de seis elementos, que fue la real innovación de Cuba. Sin una pesada sección de vientos que arreglar, las nuevas tendencias podían ser amarradas al carro latino rápida y fácilmente, y un público multicultural y hambriento de música rápidamente los siguió. Por eso, los álbumes de Cuba, a menudo, tenían títulos bilingües, como Vagabundeando/Hangin’ Out o Cocinando La Salsa/Cookin’ The Salsa, etc. y estuvieron entre los primeros artistas que los hicieron así.
Este álbum en particular contiene la grabación más vendida de Cuba de todos los tiempos, Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push. El tema también fue lanzado como un single de 7” y saltó a las listas de éxitos internacionales. Pero hay otras alegrías que son muy fácilmente pasadas por alto aquí, debido a que el envolvente éxito de ese título verifica el movimiento salsa de Sabater en Malanga Brava y Así Soy, o la descarga Cocinando, donde los músicos se animan unos a otros "fuera de micrófono". Sock it to Me y Oh Yeah llevan la insolencia requerida del Harlem contemporáneo, en tanto el tema que da el nombre al disco es rápidamente re-expuesto cerca del final de la grabación en Push, Push,Push, ¡sólo en caso de que hayamos olvidado lo bien que sonaba Bang! Bang! al principio.
A la sombra de talento único de Cuba y Sabater, sería demasiado fácil pasar por alto las valiosas contribuciones de otro miembro del sexteto. La sección rítmica fue una de las más cerradas en la ciudad durante esa época (el mismo Cuba fue parte de ella). Un elogio especial va para el pianista Nick Jiménez, quien tocó con gran movimiento en toda esta sesión, además de ser responsable de los arreglos y la co-composición de varias de sus más populares selecciones. Escuchen la forma en que el vibráfono se introduce en los arreglos de la percusión. Por su puesto, el vibraarpa es técnicamente un instrumento de percusión. Sin embargo, años de escuchar el enfoque más mesurado e improvisado de Cal Tjader tocando el vibráfono, oscurecieron las fuerzas originales que Lionel Hampton primero había destacado –y que Joe Cuba llevó al corazón de la música festiva afro-latina.
Escrito por John Armstrong
Joe Cuba Sextet
Joe Cuba & His Orchestra
In 1954, a Latino musician from the Spanish Harlem named Gilbert Calderón (aka Joe Cuba) decided to form a sextet with no brass and a bilingual singer. This man felt that the power of the English lyrics would allow the Latin sounds to reach an English speaking audience. And he was right: the group became an immediate hit. Its first single, “Ritmo De Cha Cha,” and especially the first mambo with English lyrics of the time were hit singles. They were followed by six best selling albums, culminating with the blockbuster Bang Bang with which the group crossed over into the pop field, appearing in a number of high profile television shows.
In the early '70s, I received a call from Jerry Masucci, the owner of Fania Records. "Congratulations, Joe," he told me. "I just purchased the Tico and Alegre labels, which means that you are now a Fania artist." I went to his office for the required paperwork, and as I was about to leave, he said to me: "Good luck, Joe. Now bring me a blockbuster salsa album.”
I went into the office next door and called Tito Puente to ask him about salsa. Tito said to me: "The only salsa I know is the one that I put on my steak and potatoes." As it turns out, I had no problem with this. Rice and beans are my soul food.
In order to make a good sauce, you need the right ingredients. In this case, it was singer Mike Guagenti, whom I had worked with before. He had a smooth sound with a great range. In addition, he was a gifted composer and sounded different from my other vocalists. I also chose Sonny Bravo on piano and Johnny Rodríguez on bongo, both from the Tito Puente band. I used two bass players on this record - Slim Cordero's funky sound and Eddie Gua Gua’s swinging style. A member from my original sextet, Jimmy Sabater was the timbalero, and I played the congas. I asked Louie Ramírez, the musical director with Fania Records, to recommend a new sound that would clash with the vibes. He suggested Harry Viggiano on guitar. We then added the trap drums of Alphonse Mouzon.
Mike Guagenti had composed a special tune for this album: “Ataca De Nuevo” welcomes the group back into the recording world. "Aquí llegó el diablito". Here comes the devil with his pitch fork. The DJs loved that song, turning it into a hit.
I had asked “Heny” Alvarez - one of my favorite composers - to write a song with ambiguous lyrics. He came up with "El Monito y El León," a fun tune, and my favorite track on the entire album.
“Elube Changó” is a composition of mine, boasting the trademark '60s Joe Cuba sound. "Quinto Sabroso” includes a cooking conga solo. A lot of fans would come up to me and always ask me to include a conga solo on a record. "Joe Cuba’s Latin Hustle” was a sexy track - requested on the radio at night, since it put late night revelers in the mood for love.
“Mi Jeva” is the second of Mike Guagenti’s two compositions on this album. He talks about his girlfriend and the way she treats him: breakfast in bed, Latin gourmet for dinner and more to come in the evening.
We closed the album with Willie García's “Tremendo Rumbón" - a simmering salsa guaguancó.
Well, here you have it. An album that finally explains the full meaning of the word "salsa." I think it should keep my fans happy.
Joe Cuba – Congas
Sonny Bravo – Piano
Slim Cordero – Bass
Eddie “Gua Gua” Rivera - Bass
Phil Díaz – Vibes
Louie Ramírez – Vibes, Synthesizer
Alphonse Mouzon – Drums
John Rodríguez – Bongos
Jimmy Sabater – Timbales
Harry Viggiano – Guitar
Lead Vocals – Mike Guagenti
Chorus – Sonny Bravo, Adalberto Santiago
Producer – Louie Ramírez
Recording Director – Joe Cuba
Recorded at – Good Vibrations Sound Studios, N.Y.C. (Engineer: Jon Fausty), Bell Sound Studios, N.Y.C. (Engineer: Fred Weinberg)
Musical Arrangements – Sonny Bravo (“Ataca De Nuevo,” “Mi Jeva”), Louie Ramírez (“El Monito y El León"), Nick Jiménez (“Elube Changó”), Héctor Rivera (“Quinto Sabroso”), Joe Cuba (“Joe Cuba’s Latin Hustle”), Marty Sheller (“Salsa Ahí Na’ Má”), Alfredo Rodríguez (“Tremendo Rumbón”)
Original Album Photography – Lee Marshal
Liner notes written by Joe Cuba
En 1954, un músico latino del Spanish Harlem llamado Gilbert Calderón (también conocido como Joe Cuba) decidió formar un sexteto sin instrumentos de viento y con un cantante bilingüe. Nuestro amigo pensaba que las letras en inglés permitirían que los sonidos latinos llegaran al público de habla inglesa. Y tenía razón: el grupo fue todo un éxito. Su primer sencillo, “Ritmo De Cha Cha”, y especialmente el primer mambo en inglés de la época, fueron grandes éxitos. A éstos le siguieron seis discos, culminando con el clásico Bang Bang, con el cual el grupo se hizo famoso en el mundo de la música popular, apareciendo en todos los programas de televisión de la época.
A principios de los '70, recibí una llamada de Jerry Masucci, dueño de la compañía Fania. "Felicidades, Joe", me dijo. "Acabo de adquirir las disqueras Tico y Alegre, lo que significa que ahora eres artista de la Fania". Fui a su oficina para realizar el papeleo correspondiente, y cuando estaba a punto de irme, Jerry me dijo: "Buena suerte, Joe. A ver si me traes un buen disco de salsa".
Me dirigí a la oficina de al lado y llamé a Tito Puente para preguntarle qué era la salsa. Tito me dijo: "La única salsa que yo conozco es la que le pongo a la carne con papas". No tuve ningún problema con esto, dado que el arroz y los frijoles son mi comida espiritual.
Para cocinar una buena salsa, es necesario tener los ingredientes adecuados. En este caso, llamé al cantante Mike Guagenti, con quien había trabajado anteriormente. Tenía un sonido suave y una extensión impresionante. Además, era un excelente compositor y tenía un sonido diferente a mis otros cantantes. También elegí a Sonny Bravo en el piano y Johnny Rodríguez en bongó, ambos de la orquesta de Tito Puente. Hay dos bajistas en este disco - el sonido funky de Slim Cordero y el puro swing de Eddie Gua Gua. Un integrante de mi sexteto original, Jimmy Sabater fue el timbalero, y yo toqué las congas. Le pedí a Louie Ramírez, director musical de Fania Records, que me recomendara un sonido nuevo para complementar al vibráfono. El sugirió a Harry Viggiano en guitarra. También agregamos la batería de Alphonse Mouzon.
Mike Guagenti había compuesto un tema especialmente para este disco: “Ataca De Nuevo” le da la bienvenida al grupo de regreso al mundo de la grabación. "Aquí llegó el diablito", dice. El tema les encantó a los locutores de radio, convirtiéndose en un éxito.
Le había pedido a “Heny” Alvarez - uno de mis compositores favoritos - que escribiera una canción con letras ambiguas. "El Monito y El León" es un tema divertido, mi favorito del disco.
“Elube Changó” es una de mis composiciones, y tiene el sabor clásico de Joe Cuba en los '60. "Quinto Sabroso” tiene un crocante solo de congas. Muchos fanáticos me habían pedido que incluyera un solo de conga en mis discos. "Joe Cuba’s Latin Hustle” es un tema sensual - pedido en la radio durante la noche, dado que le brindaba a los trasnochadores un clima romántico.
“Mi Jeva” es la segunda de dos composiciones de Mike Guagenti en el disco. Habla de su novia, y lo bien que lo trata ella: desayuno en la cama, cena latina de lujo, y algunas cosas más durante la noche.
Cerramos el disco con “Tremendo Rumbón" de Willie García - una salsa guaguancó.
Aquí está, entonces. Un disco que explica ampliamente el significado de la palabra "salsa". Creo que los fanáticos de Joe Cuba quedarán contentos.
Joe Cuba – Congas
Sonny Bravo – Piano
Slim Cordero – Bajo
Eddie “Gua Gua” Rivera - Bajo
Phil Díaz – Vibráfono
Louie Ramírez – Vibráfono, Sintetizador
Alphonse Mouzon – Batería
John Rodríguez – Bongó
Jimmy Sabater – Timbales
Harry Viggiano – Guitarra
Voz principal – Mike Guagenti
Coros – Sonny Bravo, Adalberto Santiago
Productor – Louie Ramírez
Director de Grabación – Joe Cuba
Grabado en – Good Vibrations Sound Studios, N.Y.C. (Ingeniero: Jon Fausty), Bell Sound Studios, N.Y.C. (Ingeniero: Fred Weinberg)
Arreglos – Sonny Bravo (“Ataca De Nuevo,” “Mi Jeva”), Louie Ramírez (“El Monito y El León"), Nick Jiménez (“Elube Changó”), Héctor Rivera (“Quinto Sabroso”), Joe Cuba (“Joe Cuba’s Latin Hustle”), Marty Sheller (“Salsa Ahí Na’ Má”), Alfredo Rodríguez (“Tremendo Rumbón”)
Fotografía de Portada Original – Lee Marshal
Comentarios discográficos escritos por Joe Cuba
Joe Cuba Sextette
|Guaracha y Bembé|
|Ya No Tengo Amigo|
|Quisiera Yo Tener|
|This Is Love|
|Stuff 'n Things|
|Joe Cuba's Mambo|
|El Chichón (Juan Ramón)|
It was the evening of Sunday, February 15, 2009, when I was informed of the passing of Joe “Sonny” Cuba. Ironically, I had been working on these very liner notes at the time and had been speaking with him on a regular basis, seeking his input in preparation of this album. Regrettably, Joe suffered from a multitude of ailments and was not allowed the opportunity to appreciate this tribute to his works. Joe Cuba was born Gilberto Navarro on April 22, 1931, in Spanish Harlem, New York City, where his Puerto Rican parents had moved in the late ’20s. Due to the tough times of the Great Depression, his mother, Gloria, was forced to place Gilbert and his older brother, Jack, in a foster home after his father abandoned the family. The following year, the boys were taken in by an Italian family, the Liottas from Staten Island, where they learned to enjoy suburban life. When Gilbert was five, his mom, who was a frequent visitor, remarried and reclaimed her children, much to the dismay of the Liotta family and the boys, who had grown accustomed to the lifestyle. Gilbert had picked up the nickname Sonny from Mrs. Liotta—who adored him and thought he was exceptionally bright—but he would soon take on the surname of his new stepfather, Miguel Calderón. In the coming years, Gilbert and Jack had to acclimate to life in Spanish Harlem. Luckily, their stepfather was a good man who owned a candy store on 115th Street in El Barrio, and Gilbert got to help out. Captivated by the conga playing of Sabu Martinez, Gilbert took the opportunity to learn the instrument while recovering from a broken leg suffered playing stickball. Gilbert jammed in the street until given the chance to replace Sabu for a few months in the local band La Alfarona X in 1950. Shortly after, he joined Spanish Harlem’s Joe Panama Quintet, where Jimmy Sabater was a timbales player. After recruiting vibraphonist Tommy Berrios, Gilbert and the band had a falling out with Panama and formed the Cha Cha Boys with Gilbert Calderón as the bandleader. Much to his surprise, Gilbert would soon be billed as “Joe Cuba” by his promoter, Catalino Rolón, and the name would stick. Once fully established, the Joe Cuba Sextet lineup included Tommy Berrios on vibes, Nick Jiménez on piano and serving as arranger, Jules “Slim” Cordero on bass, and timbalero Jimmy Sabater sharing vocal duties with newly added Willie Torres. In 1965, Torres would leave the group to join José Curbelo’s orchestra, replacing Santos Colón who had left to join Tito Puente. José “Cheo” Feliciano took over Willie’s role in the Joe Cuba Sextet until 1966, when he left, only to be replaced by Willie Torres. The material on this two-disc compilation is truly exceptional. It includes recordings from the Seeco, Mardi-Gras, Tico, and Fania labels, providing you an accurate assemblage of Joe Cuba recordings never previously compiled in album form. Joe always felt that his music should be appreciated equally by the Anglo market as well as his countless Latin devotees and often employed English lyrics to appeal to his American and young Latino fan base. He unquestionably accomplished that with international hits like “Bang Bang” and “El Pito (I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia).” As architect of the Joe Cuba sound, Joe was adept at creating pure excitement in all of his 240 recorded titles. Few entertainers can claim to have performed at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Hollywood Palladium, Madison Square Garden, and the Caribbean Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, but Joe certainly could. Listen to “Boom Boom Lucumi” and witness the electricity that Joe conveyed to his many fans whenever he performed. Joe had the innate ability to make those performing with him shine; they worked with maximum vigor while playing for the Joe Cuba Sextet. And Joe himself was always thinking a few steps ahead. I recall one occasion when, after remixing a tune with Joe, he pulled two three-inch speakers from a bag and asked the engineer, Jon Fausty, to play the final mix through these miniature speakers. In amazement, Jon and I stared at each other. “My fans listen to my music through portable radios on Orchard Beach,” Joe explained. “If the final mix sounds good through these speakers, it’ll sound great on the beach.” Jon and I learned a valuable lesson that day. The first time I saw Joe Cuba was at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York. I was captivated by his performance and became an instant fan. Two years later, I found myself eagerly attending a rehearsal for his upcoming My Man Speedy! album in his home in Baldwin, Long Island, accompanied by my writing partner—vibraphonist, percussionist, arranger, and composer Louie Ramírez—who had informed me that Joe was looking for new material for an album. That following week, being in the presence of Jimmy Sabater, Willie Torres, Nicky Jiménez, and Slim Cordero became one of the highlights of my life. During his waning days, Joe worked on a manuscript depicting special incidents experienced during his fascinating journey through life. He unpretentiously felt a movie describing his life in El Barrio and escapades throughout his illustrious career would be of particular interest to the public. Hopefully, this will come to fruition some day. The Joe Cuba Sextet enjoyed life to the fullest. They joked, laughed, and teased each other constantly. I recall one evening when Sonny and Jimmy joined me at a cocktail party I had arranged for Brazilian vocalist Nelson Ned, who, despite his diminutive size, possessed a gargantuan singing voice. As Nelson stood and proposed a toast to his many admirers, Sonny whispered to me, “You’d think the guy would have enough class to stand up while addressing his guests.” That was Joe Cuba, his humor and passion for life both relentless and contagious—everyone wanted to be with him, around him, and a part of whatever he was into. He led an extraordinary life and left behind a legacy of wonderful music for us to take pleasure in, as you will discover upon listening to this album. His presence will be eternally missed, but his spirit remains with those fortunate to have known him. The compilation opens with “Do You Feel It,” a song in which Joe’s exceptional narration expresses his exploits and eternal love for the place where he was recognized as “El Alcalde” (the mayor) of his beloved barrio in Spanish Harlem, New York City. This provocative cut from 1972’s Bustin’ Out features the superb singing of Ray Pollard, who gives a slightly pessimistic account of his days as a Black man wanting to leave El Barrio to find a better life. I took the liberty, with Joe’s blessing, of urbanizing this cut by doing some overdubbing and editing, giving the cut a more contemporary approach. When Willie Torres replaced the illustrious Cheo Feliciano as vocalist, the band didn’t miss a beat, as is illustrated superbly by Willie’s vocal on “Hey Joe, Hey Joe.” With the addition of Torres, an underrated singer and writer, the band went on to become one of the most sought-after acts, with Willie being a big part of the crossover sound that Joe Cuba is identified with. In 1964, “Bang Bang” was introduced during a Joe Cuba Sextet performance at New York’s Gardens Club (years before it became the celebrated Cheetah nightclub). During an intermission, Joe’s timbalero/vocalist, Jimmy Sabater, noticed a lack of interest in their music by the predominantly African American attendees. Jimmy approached Joe and pianist Nicky Jiménez with the idea of coming up with a sound that could get the spectators on the dance floor. What they came up with was the vamp you hear at the beginning of the tune. Jimmy bet Sonny a beer that it would work, and they opened up the set with it. From there, they winged it as they noticed the dance floor fill up and the dancers chanting “She freaks, ah! She freaks, ah!” during the musical breaks. The crowd was wild and wouldn’t let the band put an end to their fun, so they kept extending the song to the dancers’ delight. A phenomenon was created that night. The following day, Joe called a rehearsal for the band with the idea of creating a proper arrangement for “Bang Bang,” in which he added “Bi bi, ah! Bi bi, ah!” to the mix. The next day, he had to convince Tico label owner Morris Levy to let him record the song and include it in his upcoming album, Wanted Dead or Alive, more commonly referred to as Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push. Levy was not the easiest record executive to influence, but Joe Cuba seemed to always get what he wanted from Morris. The song was introduced on the album, creating a national blockbuster hit and prompting other bandleaders like Pete Rodríguez, Richie Ray, Johnny Colon, and Joe Bataan to join the bandwagon (no pun intended) and give the youthful record buyers of that era a type of music they would treasure and call the Latin boogaloo. Sonny decided to include eight-year-olds Hector Rivera Jr. and Nicky Jiménez Jr. in the chorus, giving it a more street sound, despite the objections of producer Pancho Cristal. He also used an overhead boom-operated microphone to give it more of a “live” sound. Joe Cuba was a great visionary and knew how to use various gimmicks and interesting rhythm breaks to enhance his recordings. The adeptness of Joe Cuba’s background vocalists is wonderfully demonstrated in the bolero/ballad “It’s Love,” featuring the harmonies of Jimmy Sabater, Willie Torres, and Ray Pollard. The tune showcases the dynamic trio’s ability to sing background doo-wop accompaniment as well as three-part crooning à la old-style groups like the Lettermen and the Four Aces. Very few bands can excite the best dancers with their mambo and salsa renditions as well as perform first-rate romantic ballads with such dexterity. In 1966, Joe Cuba released a tune that would become one of the biggest hits of its time, “El Pito (I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia),” cowritten by Jimmy Sabater. Featuring the renowned Cheo Feliciano on vocals, the song also has an addictive break that includes melodic whistling. Joe, always on top of gimmicks to help promote his hits, had thousands of “El Pito” whistles manufactured to distribute to his fans. Nina Calderón, Joe’s wife, recalls how, in 1967, they furiously unpacked five thousand of these novelty whistles to hand out during a performance of “El Pito” at New York’s Madison Square Garden while touring with the James Brown show. During the performance, they hurled thousands of whistles from the stage, causing a mild uprising with people running down the aisles trying to get their hands on a Joe Cuba “El Pito” whistle. Later, after having his own set blemished by all the whistle-blowing going on during his performance, James Brown was heard uttering, “That motherfucker will never work with me again!” When “My Man Speedy!” was recorded, the band was riding high. Louie Ramírez had replaced the then recently deceased vibraphonist Tommy Berrios. Louie’s influence is recognized early in the tune with his mimicry of popular bandleader Kako, while lead singer Willie Torres does a brilliant impersonation of the cartoon character Speedy Gonzalez. “Psychedelic Baby” is a song I had composed with the title “Hey Hey Girl.” But Sonny wanted to join the hippy/psychedelic movement of that era, so he re-titled the song. He thought it was a good idea to have me do a duet with Willie Torres, which seemed to work, in spite of this writer’s lack of singing talent. But Willie was instrumental in giving me the confidence to perform on this recording and others to come. In “A Thousand Ways,” Joe demonstrates his fondness for doo-wop music in this interpretation of the Nicky Jiménez ballad. Notice how well the background vocalists sing in unison and then harmonize in the bridge of the tune. You’ll also hear a Joe Cuba narration a couple of times in this selection. Ray Pollard’s polished lead vocals are featured in “Ain’t It Funny What Love Can Do.” Selected for obvious reasons to cross over to the pop market, this tune shows the band’s versatility in covering various genres of the music spectrum. Ray grew up as an exceptional doo-wop singer with some of the top groups of the ’50s. “Swinging Mambo” is from a 1956 recording, I Tried to Dance All Night on the Mardi-Gras label. Early in his career, Joe Cuba employed the use of trumpets in his band, evident in this cut. The melodic vocal performances and Joe’s distinctive breaks are noticeable throughout as well. Willie Torres and the chorus of English lyrics helped Joe Cuba’s infiltration into the Jewish and Italian markets in New York and, later, throughout the country. One of Joe Cuba’s most requested recordings is “Wabble-Cha,” a very danceable number featuring a beautiful vibes solo by Tommy Berrios and vocals by Cheo Feliciano. The ubiquitous, clever chorus lines add to the overall pleasant color of this recording. Joe Cuba notwithstanding, Jimmy Sabater is the soul of the band. His cleverness and creativity has always been a vital part of the Joe Cuba sound, and his proficiency as a percussionist has been indispensable to the rhythm section. Additionally, Jimmy is a splendid vocalist and composer, proficient in singing salsa as a sonero and an accomplished crooner in his own right. Influenced by his admiration for the late Nat King Cole, Jimmy learned at an early age how to meld his personal style into his recordings. Jimmy has recorded albums under his own name and led his own group after leaving Joe Cuba. In “I’m Insane,” a Louie Ramírez composition, Jimmy’s velvet voice shines while Ray Pollard’s tenor voice and Louie’s vibes provide expert accompaniment. Always a Latin dancer’s favorite, and a recording utilized by many mambo instructors around the world, “Ariñañara” is a true party record. The rhythm section takes command of this number along with the wonderful vocal interpretation by Cheo. Notice the prominence of the claves throughout. Willie Garcia provides the exciting vocal on Hecho y Derecho’s “La Calle Esta Durisima,” which is often confused with the earlier recording “A Las Seis,” featuring Cheo on the vocal. Recorded years later in 1973 with Phil Diaz on vibes, the pace is faster and more danceable. The rhythm is tight as usual and the breaks as clever as ever. “Macorina” has a definite pachanga feel to it, which was all the rage when this was recorded circa 1960. Atypical of the conventional flute and violins sound, the recording still wants you to get up and do the pachanga, hopping around the dance floor while waving a handkerchief. Tommy Berrios adroitly uses the vibes as a percussion instrument, helping to drive the tune. Cheo and the rhythm breaks are the icing on the cake in this forceful cut. In 1967, Joe wanted to pay tribute to his vocalist, Jimmy Sabater, by producing Joe Cuba Presents the Velvet Voice of Jimmy Sabater. From this album comes the classic bolero “Los Dos,” expertly interpreted by Jimmy. We round out disc one with one of Joe’s favorites, “Y Joe Cuba Ya Llego,” with vocals by Mike Guagenti. This 1979 recording was taken from Joe’s last recording for the Tico label, El Pirata del Caribe. In this cut, Joe displays his skills as a conguero during a swingin’ vamp while the coro chants “Hey Joe.” In 1974, artists from the Tico and Alegre record labels were presented in a concert at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City. One of the key performers of the affair was the Joe Cuba Sextet. After an introduction by Symphony Sid, Joe took the microphone and electrified the crowd prior to his performance of “Boom Boom Lucumi.” Once again, the Joe Cuba Sextet proved to be the most popular performer of the evening. Another popular recording by Joe Cuba with Cheo Feliciano on the vocals is “A las Seis.” With the chorus singing about their beloved Puerto Rico, Cheo reminds his date to be ready at six o’clock to go out pachangeando. Notice the distinctive way the vibes and piano drive the rhythm section during the montuno of the song. Also, listen to Cheo as he creates his own horn lines during the mambo. Cheo Feliciano singing in English? Yep, in this pop recording of “Remember Me,” Joe decided to use Cheo to sing the lead instead of his customary English-language vocalists, Jimmy Sabater or Willie Torres. Although the tune opens with a calypso feel, the background vocals provide a doo-wop sound that accompanies Cheo superbly on this track from the 1964 Seeco album Diggin’ the Most. Cheo Feliciano ultimately left the group to start a solo career and became one of the premier romantic vocalists of Latin music, reminiscent of the great Tito Rodríguez. In “Aunque Tú,” also taken from Diggin’ the Most, Cheo demonstrates the special way he handles a romantic bolero. The early Mardi-Gras adaptation of the classic Brown and Freed composition “Temptation” features the unison singing of the chorus with a step-out by Willie Torres and a fine vibes solo by Berrios. “La Malanga Brava,” another popular Joe Cuba recording, features a hard-driving rhythm section with ever-present electrifying breaks. Willie and Cheo sing on this track from 1966’s Wanted Dead or Alive. One more Joe Cuba favorite from his early recordings is the “Joe Cuba Mamb