Bobby PaunettoEl Sonido Moderno/The Seeco Sessions
Recognized as one of the rarest treasures in the history of Latin jazz, El Sonido Moderno rightfully takes its place among the most elusive, sought-after gems ever pressed to vinyl. When you listen to the unique stylings of Bobby Vince Paunetto, the cool, jazzy vibes finely interwoven into the fabric of the clave, you are experiencing a truly extraordinary sound. Like Sabu’s Jazz Espagnole and Mark Weinstein’s Cuban Roots, Paunetto’s El Sonido Moderno was too progressive for its time but now is finally given the recognition it deserves. Had it not been for Paunetto’s debilitating illness, he would surely have been one of the most celebrated Latin jazz artists of our time. ...MORE >
Recognized as one of the rarest treasures in the history of Latin jazz, El Sonido Moderno rightfully takes its place among the most elusive, sought-after gems ever pressed to vinyl. When you listen to the unique stylings of Bobby Vince Paunetto, the cool, jazzy vibes finely interwoven into the fabric of the clave, you are experiencing a truly extraordinary sound. Like Sabu’s Jazz Espagnole and Mark Weinstein’s Cuban Roots, Paunetto’s El Sonido Moderno was too progressive for its time but now is finally given the recognition it deserves. Had it not been for Paunetto’s debilitating illness, he would surely have been one of the most celebrated Latin jazz artists of our time. Fortunately for us, we are now able to experience the “Modern Sounds” of Bobby Vince Paunetto, and, for the first time ever, the ultra-rare Seeco sessions are reissued in their entirety.
Bobby Vince Paunetto was born June 22, 1944, into a family of Italian and Catalonian descent. Originally from Brooklyn, the Paunettos soon settled into a middle-class home in the Bronx where Bobby Vince and his two older brothers, Raymond and William (later honored in Paunetto’s composition “Brother Will”) would soon come of age. The boys’ mother, Rosemarie, loved to sing tangos and dance the Lindy and occasionally performed at social gatherings. In 1949, Rosemarie took Bobby Vince (at the tender age of five) to audition as a dancer at the famed Roxy Theatre, a place that also bore witness to the genius of Mr. Fred Astaire. And though the family spoke English at home, Rosemarie was able to speak Spanish well enough to later compose beautiful lyrics to her son’s music (on the Seeco 45s).
Though Paunetto was exposed to a wide variety of music at home, he got his first real taste of jazz listening to radio eccentric Douglas “Jocko” Henderson (“Mr. Oo-Papa-Doo, How Do You Do!”), often credited as being one of the very first rappers. “When I heard Charlie Parker,” Paunetto remembers, “with that saxophone that was faster than the speed of light, I really flipped.” And as far as his exquisite taste in Latin music, Bobby Vince has his older brother Raymond to thank. “Ray would go dancing at the Palladium and see all the great Latin bands, like Tito Puente, and I learned a lot about the music from him.”
But it was athletics that led Paunetto to his big break. A gifted athlete, he was honored in 1959 as one of the best athletes in New York’s public schools. Then in 1961, as Paunetto remembers, “Pat Patrick, the great saxophonist from Sun Ra’s Arkestra, knew one of the administrators from the youth athletic association, and he invited our whole basketball team to see Cal Tjader in concert at the Yorkville Casino in Manhattan. Patrick introduced us to Tjader before the concert. After his set, Cal sat back down at his table in the front with his wife, Pat. The next thing I knew, they were patting the seat next to them and motioning for me to come join them at the table.” The Tjaders bonded with Paunetto, so much so that the vibes master and the missus gave the young jazz fan their home address and phone number, extending their warmth and friendship.
That same year, Bobby Vince got a pleasant surprise when he opened up Tjader’s Verve album In a Latin Bag and noticed the tune “Pauneto’s Point,” which was written in his honor (if misspelled). “Cal made me a part of MGM history by composing this tune for me,” muses Paunetto, sensing the historical importance of this gesture. “Cal was a sincere human being.” In fact, not only was Tjader instrumental in fueling the fire of Paunetto’s desire to become a vibraphonist, Cal (along with his drummer and fellow mallet man Johnny Rae) generously assisted Bobby Vince in obtaining his first set of vibes. “Nineteen sixty-two was a very important year for me,” Paunetto says, “because in addition to Cal and Johnny Rae helping me get the vibes, I also purchased an inexpensive piano so I could start working on compositions.” While still retaining some of his youthful zest for sports, Paunetto immersed himself completely in his newfound passion and could be heard practicing vibes for up to seven hours a day. Within a year, he surprised even Tjader himself as Paunetto’s band opened for him at the Embassy Ballroom.
Paunetto was quickly gaining experience on the New York scene with appearances at the Village Gate and other hot spots around town. Then, in 1963, he recorded a two-song demo, which included “Something for O.M.” and “Mambo Sevilla,” (the former was retitled as “Algo Para O.M.” without his permission, and the latter was rerecorded for El Sonido Moderno). The following year, he recorded a demo of another original composition, “Aguantando,” which was also redone, with vocals this time, for Sonido Moderno. The young vibraphonist’s efforts were not in vain; the demos quickly caught the attention of Howard Roseff, vice president of Seeco Records, who wasted no time in convincing his older cousin, Seeco owner Sidney Siegel, to sign Paunetto to the label.
These Seeco 45s, reissued in their entirety for the first time here, hint at the greatness that was to come in future Paunetto recordings. Recorded live (with no overdubs) in 1965, these singles are a tasty mix of soulful guajiras, jazzy mambos, and a stunning bolero that is simply out of this world. What’s impressive is that this twenty-one-year-old, who had only been playing vibes for three years, had the talent and the chutzpah to record with members of the upper echelon of Latin music, with luminaries like bassist Bobby Rodríguez Sr. of the Tito Puente and Machito orchestras. On timbales was John “Dandy” Rodríguez (also from the Puente band), who at only eighteen was already a seasoned pro. Frankie Malabe, heard on bongos on these sessions, was a member of the famed Alegre All-Stars, and Paunetto’s neighborhood friend, Jimmy Centeno, took care of business on congas (he would also later be featured with Puente). At the piano was another young talent who would later become a main fixture in the Puente organization, the great Sonny Bravo. With such a strong, tight ensemble of maestros, Paunetto would need to select the finest of Latin vocalists to bring his music to life, and he sure knew how to pick ’em. On lead vocals was Willie Torres of Joe Cuba fame, later featured on Ocho’s Latin-soul classic “Undress My Mind.” Singing coro (background) were both Santitos Colón (Tito Puente Orchestra) and Chivirico Dávila, from the Alegre All-Stars. It’s safe to say that on this musical voyage, Paunetto flew first class. Alto saxophonist Art Terrero, though perhaps not as well known, sounds right at home with the titans, providing some inspired blowing over Paunetto’s intricate arrangements.
After recording the Seeco 45s, Paunetto’s musical career would then have to take the backseat, as he was drafted into the U.S. Army on August 17, 1965. As Paunetto recalls, “I was a Navy cadet from the age of ten to fourteen, so I already knew how to handle a weapon and everything.” Fortunately for the music world, he was honorably discharged in early 1967.
As Paunetto tells Max Salazar in Latin Beat magazine, “First thing I did was get a group together, which included Ray Cruz (Cruz Control) on timbales. Tito Puente hooked me up with Morris Levy of Roulette Records, and I signed a one-year contract to record for the Mardi-Gras label.” Puente was proud of the young vibraphonist, and, according to Paunetto, “Tito would often introduce me to people, pointing at me with a smile, saying, ‘This is a very talented man.’” The fact that none other than Tito Puente himself wrote the original liner notes to El Sonido Moderno speaks volumes—when “El Rey” talks, people listen.
As Bobby Vince Paunetto was faithfully serving his country, a new Latin-soul sound was erupting on the streets of Nueva York, and young boogaloo bands were popping up on every block. While many of the established Latin bandleaders dismissed the boogaloo as nothing more than a passing trend, it was still a force to be reckoned with, and even artists such as the great Machito, Eddie Palmieri, and the King himself (TP), would eventually record their own versions of this new groove. Sadly, many of the young boogaloo outfits were content to recycle the same predictable chord changes and melodies, but Paunetto’s Latin-soul sound was uniquely fresh. El Sonido Moderno expresses his original concept of blending typical Latin rhythms with the new soul sounds of the ’60s, enhancing them with his own brand of jazzy sophistication. From the deep, head sounds of “Aguantando” to the funky flavor of “Chinatown” and “El Señor Sid,” El Sonido Moderno delivers the goods with a healthy dose of soul and sabor.
As extraordinary as Paunetto’s Modern Sound is, it may have been a little too hip for the mainstream, and with very little promotional support, this epic recording slipped right through the cracks. As Paunetto tells Max Salazar in Latin Beat, “The LP got zero airplay; the popular DJs were promoting the Cotique and Fania artists.” To make matters worse, his own label, Mardi-Gras, even misspelled his surname on the cover.
Paunetto, however, was undaunted by this apparent setback, and, thanks to a GI Bill and letters of recommendation from music legends Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria, the young bandleader was soon accepted into the famed Berklee College of Music, where he would study under vibes master Gary Burton. His years at Berklee helped him expand his musical knowledge, adding greater depth and texture to his sound, which would lend itself perfectly to the burgeoning jazz-funk fusion that was quickly gaining popularity in Latin music.
Shortly after graduating Berklee in 1973, Bobby Vince Paunetto began blazing a new trail, cofounding with his brother Raymond the appropriately named Pathfinder Records. The freshly inspired bandleader wasted no time in putting together another all-star cast of players, that included Manny Oquendo, John “Dandy” Rodríguez, Milton Cardona, and Jerry González on percussion; Andy Gonzáles on bass, Mario Rivera on sax, Alfredo de la Fé on violin, as well as many of his talented Berklee alumni. His first self-produced recording, Paunetto’s Point (in Cal’s honor), was nominated for a Grammy in 1975–’76, and his second album, 1977’s Commit to Memory, was also critically acclaimed, earning the vibraphonist a place among the most highly respected musicians on the scene. Paunetto, now with two highly praised recordings on his own label, was moving in the direction of his dreams.
Then the unthinkable happened. In 1978, Bobby Vince was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and his ability to perform and compose was greatly compromised. Though he was dealt a serious blow that would challenge him to his very core, Paunetto remained steadfast and never gave up on his dream. In fact, since being diagnosed with MS, the vibraphonist and pianist has composed hundreds of contemporary jazz tunes and, while his disease was in remission, was able to record two discs, Composer in Public (1996) and Reconstituted (1999). To this day, Bobby Vince Paunetto continues to write both straight-ahead and Latin jazz compositions and has his sights on recording more of his innovative sounds.
While these days the word “artist” is lauded upon so many undeserving of its title, Bobby Vince Paunetto is the real deal, and it is these timeless recordings that have earned this genuine artist his well-deserved place in music history.
Liner notes by Miles Perlich
Miles Perlich wishes to thank Bobby Vince Paunetto, John “Dandy” Rodriguez, Willie Torres, Sonny Bravo, Martin Perlich, Ted Myers, Bobby Matos, Steve Kader, Adam Rundquist, and Luis Gonzalez.
El Sonido Moderno (Mardi-Gras 5030)
Originally released in January 1968
Produced by Pancho Cristal
The Seeco Sessions (Seeco)
Originally released on 45 in 1965
All songs arranged by Bobby Paunetto
Remastered by Wax Poetics Mastering
El Sonido Moderno
2. Mi Flor Tropical
3. Is It Tasty?
5. Why Is Woody Sad?
6. Mambo Sevilla
7. El Señor Sid
8. Dig It Like This
10. Pero Dime Tu
The Seeco Sessions
12. Aquí Voy Yo
14. Mi Paso
15. De Mi Amor
16. Guajira Dulce
El Sonido Moderno musicians
Bobby Paunetto: vibes and marimba
John Marrero: piano
Art Ferrero: alto sax
Fernando Oquendo: bass
Tony Centeno: vocals, gourd tambourine
Ray Cruz: timbales
Ray Miranda: timbales (“Mambo Sevilla” only)
Tommy López: congas
Jimmy Centeno: drums (traps)
John “Dandy” Rodríguez: bongos, conga, cowbell
Henry Zapata: bass (“Mambo Sevilla” only)
The Seeco Sessions musicians
Bobby Paunetto: vibes
Bobby Rodríguez Sr.: bass
John “Dandy” Rodríguez: timbales
Frankie Malabe: bongos, percussion
Jimmy Centeno: conga
Sonny Bravo: piano
Willie Torres: lead vocal
Santos Colón: coro
Chivirico Dávila: coro