Sometimes, bearing the same name of another famous musician is a lifetime curse. This doesn’t apply to the well-known woodwind virtuoso/bandleader Robert “Bobby” Rodríguez, whose overwhelming talents made him shine on his own, even at a time where there seemed to be a surplus of All Stars in New York. ...MORE >
Sometimes, bearing the same name of another famous musician is a lifetime curse. This doesn’t apply to the well-known woodwind virtuoso/bandleader Robert “Bobby” Rodríguez, whose overwhelming talents made him shine on his own, even at a time where there seemed to be a surplus of All Stars in New York.
For decades in Latin music, and especially in New York, the mention of the name Bobby Rodríguez brings to mind the image of the legendary (and now deceased) bassist that ,for half a century, enhanced the sounds of such musical greats as Tito Puente, Charlie Palmieri and the Alegre All Stars. The particular Bobby Rodríguez mentioned here made himself noticeable with his own talent and vision.
A former member of the Joe Bataan group, where he recorded as Robert Rodríguez (which, in itself, triggered confusion with yet another Roberto Rodríguez, the famed trumpet virtuoso of Ray Barretto and Orquesta Broadway fame, who was deceased as well), Bobby forms his own band, La Compañía, in 1975. There were two key elements that helped this band rise to fame: first, the achievement of an early sound and style of their own, and second, the versatility of their eclectic songbook, which appealed to both the Latin and African-American audiences.
The band’s repertoire and sound gorgeously fused elements of jazz, Dixieland, doo-wop, blues and Cuban charanga with the strength of Nuyorican salsa. A vital part of this daring plot was the presence of the also deceased trombonist Eddie Hernández (or Eddie Iglesias, as he is credited on other band albums), also a former Bataan sideman and bearer of a unique English singing voice. The other members of the original band were veteran trumpeter Joe Wohletz (of Barretto’s Charanga Moderna and Richie Ray’s original band fame), conga player Joey De León (still active and one of the most sought after session players in California today), piano virtuoso Al Dorsey, bassist Toti Negrón, percussionist Felix Nazario and singers Junior Cordova and José Acosta Negrón, Dorsey and Wohletz, who would remain irreplaceable in the band since day one.
Jerry Masucci signs the band to Vaya Records, recording the song Lead Me To That Beautiful Band in 1975, yielding the top hit Número 6, composed for them by a then still up-and-coming Rubén Blades. A year later they record the live recording you’re holding in your hands right now: “Salsa At Woodstock Recorded Live”. The fact that only two years after their foundation Fania records the band live is a bold testament of the potential and raw power of this band.
Another Blades composition is the lead single here—the storming and ingeniously arranged “What Happened”, fusing bilingual lyrics, Dixieland elements and the virtuosity of Rodríguez on clarinet, an instrument very rarely associated with salsa music. At this time, another longtime member of La Compañía, the aggressive timbale/bongo player Charlie Salinas, replaces Nazario in the band. Other hits from this album were the son montuno “La Mas Fea” and the violent pace of “Ahora Te Toca A T”i. True to their unpredictable nature of impacting with the most unusual, they include here a Latinized version of Louis Prima’s “ Sunday Kind of Love”, sung by Eddie Iglesias.
The more than deserved fame that Rodríguez acquires pays big—he is invited to record in 1977 with the Alegre All Stars (where he joins the famous same-named bass legend for the first time). Then in 1981, his last year under contract with Fania, he performs with the Fania All Stars (the Fania Six, actually Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Roberto Roena, Papo Lucca, Nicky Marrero and Bobby Valentín) at the Carnegie Hall. Rodríguez later dies unexpectedly on March 12, 2003. LESS >