Released in 1993, this compilation was meant as an alternate version for the 1977 album Perdido by the “Alegre All Stars”, which was out of print at the time. Not only were four of the six songs from that album included here, but its original artwork was reprised as well (the banner, which used to read Perdido in black ink on the original version, was now switched to “Te Invita” in red). Rounded out with selections from their seminal four original sessions between 1961 and 1966, consider this release you’re holding in your hands as a very appropriate introduction to the legacy of this legendary stellar band—the direct forerunner of the anthological Fania All Stars. ...MORE >
Released in 1993, this compilation was meant as an alternate version for the 1977 album Perdido by the “Alegre All Stars”, which was out of print at the time. Not only were four of the six songs from that album included here, but its original artwork was reprised as well (the banner, which used to read Perdido in black ink on the original version, was now switched to “Te Invita” in red). Rounded out with selections from their seminal four original sessions between 1961 and 1966, consider this release you’re holding in your hands as a very appropriate introduction to the legacy of this legendary stellar band—the direct forerunner of the anthological Fania All Stars.
This group was the brainchild of Al Santiago, a man of music in all the extents of the word: musician, producer, arranger and founder of the seminal Alegre Records, as well as owner of the mythical Casa Alegre record store in New York.
Inspired by the seminal Panart descargas in Cuba, Al Santiago constructs his house All Star band—but the task wasn’t as easy as it sounds. One of the hardest of tasks was having all the artists available. The other difficulty, as with any All Star congregation, was dealing with the members’ range of styles as well as getting them to work together effectively. In the true tradition of descargas, the musicians had the green light to improvise freely, with no written charts whatsoever. Besides this particular element, what made these sessions special was the fact that the ambience wasn’t typical of a recording studio. The performers were literally throwing an after-hours party, with lots of beer and drinks to boot.
The first “Alegre All Stars” album was recorded in 1961, and is represented here by the track “Estoy Buscando a Kako”, a free-flowing jam inspired on a melody by Don Elliott. This edition’s six main soloists are featured: leaders Charlie Palmieri and Francisco Kako Bastar (chief A&R and general managers for Alegre, respectively), flutist Johnny Pacheco, trombone king Barry Rogers, the great Chombo Silva (our own Latin Lester Young) and bassist Bobby Rodríguez, with the band’s original singers (Dioris Mr. Merengue Valladares, Yayo El Indio and Rudy Calzado) trading choruses in the end. The elusive Juanchu Feliciano Mercerón, appearing on this album as well as volume four as the booze-getter, is none other than Cheo Feliciano (on the fourth album, they switch back to this nom de disque because of his contract with Tico Records as a member of the Joe Cuba sextet. On the first, he’s actually the band boy, with his amazing singing talents yet to be discovered).
“El Manicero”, the band’s second album, was recorded in 1964 and is represented here by its title track, sung by the late virtuoso Chivirico Davila, Al Santiago’s favorite singer. With Pacheco now gone as he founds Fania, Al recruits soulful trumpet virtuoso Puchi Boulong, later joined by Ray Maldonado. The band now has a steady bongo player in Joe Quijano, while the late Frankie Malabe, another stalwart of the band, debuts here.
Volumes three and four were released the same year (1966). In an ingenious marketing plot, volume three (1965), allegedly missing (as in master tapes being stolen from Kako in a subway station), was released later than its sequel. These two volumes are represented by two tracks each: “Yumbambé”, “Sonó, Sonó”, “Manteca” and “Se Acabó”. (Cheo, singer on two of these tracks, actually appears under his own name in volume three instead of the Juanchu alias.)
In 1977, with Alegre now under Fania’s ownership, Al returns with “Perdido”, rounding his band (now with several big names missing) with Louie Ramírez and members of the very popular group Bobby Rodríguez Y La Compañía. Capitalizing on the coincidence of having two same-named virtuosos in the band, pianist Héctor Rivera composes “Bobby, Bajo y Clarinete”, this album’s climax along with their storming rendition of “Perdido”, “Agúsese Usted” and the comparsa “Alegre Te Invita”, also from this 1977 album, round up this exceptional compilation. Enjoy!
Charlie Palmieri – Leader, Piano
Francisco Kako Bastar – Co-Leader, Timbales, Bongos
Johnny Pacheco – Flute
Chombo Silva – Tenor Saxophone
Mario Rivera – Tenor Saxophone
Robert “Bobby” Rodríguez (La Compañía) – Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet
Barry Rogers – Trombone
Sam Burtis – Trombone
Eddie Hernández (aka. Eddie Iglesias) – Trombone
Mark Weinstein – Trombone
Bobby Rodríguez – Bass
Frankie Malabe – Congas
Louie Ramírez – Vibes
Puchi Boulong – Trumpet
Ray Maldonado – Trumpet
Roy Román – Trumpet
Orlando Marín – Timbales
Charlie Salinas – Timbales, Bongos
Joe Quijano – Bongos, Paila
David “Cortijito” Rosario – Bongos
Luís “Chicky” Pérez – Bongos
Marcelino Valdés – Congas
Willie Rosario – Percussion
Julian Cabrera – Percussion
Osvaldo “Chihuahua” Martínez – Percussion
José Madera – Percussion
Tito Jiménez – Percussion
Additional Studio Chatter - Al Santiago, Cecilio Carmona, Francisco Kako Bastar, Charlie Palmieri
Vocals and Chorus - Dioris Valladares,Yayo El Indio, Rudy Calzado, Chivirico Dávila, Víctor Velásquez , Elliot Romero, Willie Torres, Cheo Feliciano, Heny Álvarez, Chamaco Ramírez, Al Santiago