For a number of years now, Fania's prestigious "Man & His Music" collection has been paying tribute to the most transcendental artists in Latin music: from Rubén Blades and Héctor Lavoe to Machito and Tito Rodriguez, to name just a few. Now, a legendary orchestra from Puerto Rico famed for its elegant mystique and jazzy soundscapes is receiving its due. Sonora Ponceña - A Band And Its Music is a definitive anthology, including 27 tracks and a lavish booklet with an informative essay on the group and many rare photos.
The compilation kicks off with the salsa dura classic "Hachero Pa'Un Palo" - included in the band's debut album under the sophisticated musical direction of keyboard virtuoso Papo Lucca. Marked by its thunderous lineup of trumpets, a rootsy rhythm section and Lucca's velvety piano solos, La Ponceña quickly developed a unique sound that conquered the heart of both Latin jazz aficionados and devoted salsa dancers. The early incarnation of the band during the early '70s is documented through such gritty tunes as "Fuego En El 23" and "Juana Bayona," with excellent vocal work by soneros Tito Gómez and Luigi Texidor.
La Ponceña reached its artistic zenith between 1976 and 1978, establishing an ambitious brand of progressive salsa that took the genre to unsuspected levels of artistry. The second half of Disc 1 illustrates these heights on epic workouts like "Boranda" and "Moreno Soy," coupled with mega-hits "El Pío Pío" and "Bomba Carambomba."
Disc 2 features "Soy Antillana," a fiery track off the band's 1979 classic collaboration with Celia Cruz. It then showcases the inspiration and commercial success that defined La Ponceña throughout the '80s, with the chocolaty vocals of Puerto Rican diva Yolanda Rivera shining on tracks like the patriotic "Borinquen" and the Machito classic "Ahora Sí." The orchestra enjoyed new hits well into the '90s, and the compilation comes to a conclusion with the band still at the top of its game.
Sonora Ponceña - A Band And Its Music is the ultimate collection of one of the most mercurial bands in tropical music. Casual fans who know only a couple of their songs will be dazzled by the treasure trove of melodies and rhythms to be found in these 27 tracks. The collection is available on CD format, and also as a digital download.
Our free download this month celebrates the sheer magic to be found in the vast catalogue of veteran Puerto Rican orchestra La Sonora Ponceña. Culled from the 1980 album Unchained Force, which found the group at the apex of its career - and also included in the new compilation Sonora Ponceña - A Band And Its Music - "Luz Negra" combines salsa with jazz, percussive power with exquisite piano lines. A composition by boricua master Tite Curet Alonso, it delivers a powerful contrast between its sinuous melody, a propulsive groove and melancholy lyrics about unrequited love. Enjoy.