This historic recording defines the tempestuous career of New York salsa legend, Hector LaVoe. Born in Puerto Rico, LaVoe became famous in New York where his crystal clear tenor voice captured the reality of Nuyoricans, while reminding them of their rustic jíbaro”(country) roots. His diversity of rhythms, beats and genres in an era where singers were either soneros or boleristas, was fluent, precise, timed and rhymed in spontaneous verses of improvisation. ...MORE >
This historic recording defines the tempestuous career of New York salsa legend, Hector LaVoe. Born in Puerto Rico, LaVoe became famous in New York where his crystal clear tenor voice captured the reality of Nuyoricans, while reminding them of their rustic jíbaro”(country) roots. His diversity of rhythms, beats and genres in an era where singers were either soneros or boleristas, was fluent, precise, timed and rhymed in spontaneous verses of improvisation. Through the combination of LaVoe’s voice and musical training he received in Puerto Rico combined with the street-smart, more visceral knowledge of Willie Colón, the team mixed the best of Puerto Rico and New York—expressing hard-core salsa along with plenas, décimas, boleros, bombas, murgas, merengues and rancheras. Comedia comes at a time in LaVoe’s solo career when he needed to get back on the charts and into the clubs. This third solo recording produced by his former partner, highlight’s Colón’s eclectic musical taste and arrangements, propelling dancers from New York’s Corso to the festivals of Colombia’s Cali to synergistic levels of creative expression.
Producer Willie Colón sought something special for LaVoe and reached out to singer/composer Ruben Blades who Colón had teamed up with for the production of Siembra. Blades was working on a composition for himself but agreed to give it to LaVoe instead. “El Cantante” became LaVoe’s comeback signature song.
Most notably, this album is known for four “throw down” dance numbers that were performed live and often created frenzy on the dance floor. While “El Cantante” features a touch of strings and harp above the percussion, lending a tinge of elegance to the melancholy lyrics, “Bandolera” has left a permanent mark on the music distinguished by a brilliant piano solo by Gilbert El Pulpo Colón that spotlights the pianist’s’ dynamics and range sampling tasty melodies from classical standards like Orchichornia to the folkloric Alegria Bomba E ending in a driving montuno that recalls Bilongo. You can hear the Ismael Rivera influence on LaVoe’s music when he vocalizes along with the trombone riffs of Reynaldo Jorge. A brilliant arrangement by the late trumpeter José Febles, “Bandolera”, albeit its misogynistic lyrics, is a balanced blend of LaVoe’s vocal expertise woven around a tight musical ensemble that personifies the drive of old school salsa.
“La Verdad”, also arranged by Colón, is a delightful dance addition that breaks down into a samba and comes back strong for the dancer. A tasty son-montuno, “Songoro Cosongo”, arranged by Edwin Rodriguez paints a musical picture of tribal dancing in the solar (ghettos).
The title tune, “Comedia”, arranged by trumpeter Luis “Perico” Ortiz, underscores LaVoe’s more subtle and sublime timber on this bolero. Suggesting the influences of masters such as Felipe Rodriguez and Cheo Feliciano on the young LaVoe, Comedia’s orchestral feeling, and masterful brass and string harmonics compliment the snuggling sensation this tune evokes.
“Tiempos Pasados” is a more even-tempoed dance number by Jose Febles interspersed with suave samba sequences that inspire creativity while evoking the memories of a youth that cannot be re-lived.
A classic bolero from the 1970s, “Porque Te Conocí”, also arranged by Febles, brings you closer to LaVoe’s vocal depth and emotion. Singing about a romance he can never have, LaVoe evokes the bitter sadness of unrequited love that ends after the dance is over.
Over the years, “El Cantante” has become a Latin music standard and a career-defining composition for LaVoe. Gilberto Colón’s jazzy piano voice behind LaVoe’s lament as the artist who inspires joy while he alone suffers great pain, decoratively colors the singer’s voice. The trumpet solos by first Febles and then Ortiz characterize the respective laid back and aggressive styles of both players while LaVoe’s jíbaro “a le lo lei” laments are very reminiscent of the Moorish chants to Allah common in 17th century Spain. The song describes the bittersweet and ironic life of the artist as tragic figure with LaVoe profoundly embracing this role from his costumed imitation of Charlie Chaplin on the cover, to paralleling Chaplin’s exile from Hollywood with LaVoe’s own self-imposed exile from his artistic success. Surely, LaVoe reflects his greatness as well as his pain in this historic recording—Comedia.
Salvador Cuevas - Bass
Gilberto "El Pulpo" Colon – Piano, Electric Piano
Jose Rodriguez – Trombone
Reynaldo Jorge – Trombone
Luis "Perico" Ortiz: Trumpet
Jose Febles: Trumpet
Jose Mangual Jr.– Bongos
Eddie Montalvo – Conga (Except “El Cantante” & “La Verdad”)
Milton Cardona – Conga (“El Cantante” & “La Verdad”)
Jose Signo – Drums
Steve Berrios – Timbales (“El Cantante” & “La Verdad”)
Jose Mangual Jr.
Milton Cardona (“El Cantante" and "La Verdad")
Produced by: Willie Colon
Arrangements by: Willie Colon – “El Cantante”, “La Verdad”
Luis Ortiz - “Comedia”
Jose Febles – “Tiempos Pasados”, “Bandolera”, “Porque Te Conocí” Edwin Rodriguez – “Songoro Consongo”
Audio Engineers: Jon Fausty, Mario Salvati, Irv Greenbaum
Mixed by: Willie Colon – “Bandolera” mixed by Jon Fausty
Original Photography: Yoshi Ohara
Original Layout and Design: Michael Ginsburg/Gazebo Group
Original Art Director: Alberta Dering
Recorded At: La Tierra Sound Studios, New York City
Many thanks to: Jerry Masucci, Willie Colon, Fabian Ross, Tata Guerra, Domingo
Gones, Luis Eduardo, Nilda Lavoe Perez (Puchi), Al Santiago.