A departure from the aggressive, hardcore violent brass moñas and phrases that marked La Sonora Ponceña’s early style when singers Luigi Texador and Tito Gomez fronted the band that began doing covers, Determination elevates Puerto Rico’s oldest working orchestra into a more musically diverse realm while still being danceable. Much like its cover illustration that features a knight in armor on a white stallion breaking through Puerto Rican flag colors, Determination showcases the virtuosity of its musical director, Papo Lucca (Enrique Quiñones) demonstrating his prowess as a musician, arranger and producer incorporating jazz, songo, bossa nova and classical into this salsa mix.
A child prodigy, Papo’s playground was in the rehearsals rooms where his father Quique was formulating the distinctive sound of a band that embraced the phrase: Cuba and Puerto Rico are two wings of the same bird. A follower of Cuba’s legendary Sonora Matancera, Quique wanted an orchestra that would embrace the musical genres of both countries in a similar Sonora, (the use of only trumpets) style. Since he was from the town of Ponce, home to many of salsa’s musicians, Sonora Ponceña matured much at the same pace as Quique’s extraordinary progeny.
A brilliant multi-instrumentalist who plays congas, bongos, the six stringed tres, trumpet, and vibes Papo Lucca is considered one of salsa’s most extraordinary musicians.
Determination spotlights Papo’s dazzling arrangements as demonstrated by the harmonies he employs on the trumpets and flugelhorn in the tune, “Si la Ven” featuring the dexterity and range of Juancito Torres on the flugelhorn. Opening with a piano solo that turns the lead melody line into a classical music minuet, the quartet of trumpets and flugelhorn are then gently ushered in by the thump of the bass coupled with bongos beats accompanying the now McCoy Tyner sounding cluster chords Papo lays down. Singer Miguel Ortiz’s smooth tenor then takes the lead making for a semi-sweet and sad danceable song about lost love.
The opening tune, Yembeque, is a Regla de Ocha chant to the orishas that simulates a rumba within its salsa dance style format. Featuring a tasty and very creative solo by Vicente “Little Johnny” Rivero where his rolls turn into talking beats that not only say his name but also sings as he glides a slicked finger three times across the drum’s skin.
Soledad highlights all three singers with Yolanda Rivera smoothly blending both the street savvy and gritty sound of Toñito Ledee with the silky tenor of Miguel Ortiz. The vocal trio takes turns in a round robin of verses on the state of solitude and its dangers. Here Papo plays around with a synthesizer ala Chick Corea and then turns the beat around into a bossa nova during the mambo and the finale of the number.
Listen to Papo’s Bill Evans’ influenced piano riffs under the trumpets that usher in Yolanda Rivera’s beautiful alto in the bolero, Creo En Ti. Four melodically harmonized trumpets surround the polyrhythmically grounded sound with an arrangement that was tailored to her style and phrasing. Her subtle variations in tone and phrasing compliment the melodic chord changes. In fact, Papo’s brilliance as arranger shines in this bolero where he utilizes ninths and suspended chords in the harmonies of the trumpets.
Using sus chords with an intro that suggests Chick Corea, Herida Cerrada en Falso accentuates Toñito’s vocal stylings and sweet whistling. A tune written by the vocalist, this is a mellow danceable number that won’t make you sweat.
Date Cuenta is a call to all those young people who think they’re all that and go around playing with hearts. The music however doesn’t play, with Papo’s piano solo (played on a separate track on top of his montunos) touching on block chords ala George Shearing and Bill Evans followed by snatches of Rafael Hernandez’s Lamento Borincano before going to the mambo.
Joldo is really Papo’s version of Duke Jordan’s “Jordu” except that Fania didn’t acknowledge Jordan back then placing instead a D.R. (Rights Reserved) credit. In any event, Papo truly goes jazz on this piece taking the number to higher Latino ground.
Aunque Te Quiero uses songo with salsa for a driving dance feel. A song that captures the heart of a true romantic lamenting a love not returned, Papo throws in a few bluesy sounding chords for color. The coro, along with the conga, both emphasize La Ponceña’s name in this signature dance number that rocks.
Overall, Determination underscores Papo’s genius and what has given La Sonora Ponceña its staying power throughout its more than 40 year history.
Enrique “Queque Lucca Leader
Enrique “Papo” Lucca, Jr. Piano/Musical Director
Ramon A. Rodriguez “El Cordoves” Trumpet
Delfin Perez Trumpet
Angel Velez Trumpet
Heriberto Santiago Trumpet
Antonio Santaella Bass
Efrain Hernandez Bass
Jessie Colon Timbal
Vicente Rivero “Little Johnny” Conga
Angel L. Hernandez Bongo
Miguel A. Ortiz-Guiro Maracas
Juancito Torres Flugel Horn “En Si La Ven”
Yolanda Rivera Singer
Miguel A. Ortiz Singer
Toñito Ledee Singer
Produed by: Papo Lucca
Executive Producers: Jerry Massucci
Written by Aurora Flores