Recorded in 1975 yet released the following year, “Tribute To Tito Rodríguez” is Fania All Stars’ first formal studio album—that’s without counting the five songs meant to be the aborted second set at Yankee Stadium in 1973 and recorded in studio for Latin-Soul-Rock. ...MORE >
Recorded in 1975 yet released the following year, “Tribute To Tito Rodríguez” is Fania All Stars’ first formal studio album—that’s without counting the five songs meant to be the aborted second set at Yankee Stadium in 1973 and recorded in studio for Latin-Soul-Rock.
Two factors were determinant in this album’s delay. First, this project was conceived years before its recording with the intention of having Tito Rodríguez himself as a guest, which never happened, as he died of leukemia in 1973. Second, due to expansion plans after entering into a lucrative contract with Columbia Records, this label’s first album with the new band (the All Stars reduced to a sextet for marketing purposes, (a.k.a. the Fania Six: Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Bobby Valentín, Roberto Roena, Nicky Marrero, and a debuting Papo Lucca) was released months earlier. Here Fania used a record total of 10 singers.
Besides Pacheco himself, who acted as recording director, another cornerstone on this project was maestro Louie Ramírez, Tito’s former right hand at his own TR Records, who now had returned to Fania as producer and A&R manager for the newly acquired Tico and Alegre labels. Although not performing here, Ramírez co-produces the date and arranges the core of this repertoire. Lucca—in what should be a prelude to his formal inclusion in the lineup, which substituted a departing Larry Harlow in midst of a suit against Masucci (this was later resolved off-court with Harlow returning to the lineup), arranges three tunes, while Valentín, the band’s house arranger, bookmarks this album with his two songs.
Speaking of bookmarks, who better than Cheo Feliciano to open and close this TR tribute? Feliciano is the last to perform on the album’s closing singer spin-off in “Vuela La Paloma” where the staff vocalists salute the “Inolvidable” (The Unforgettable One). And it is precisely with “Inolvidable” that Cheo begins the album with finesse. Cheo was Tito’s band boy in the beginning and it was Tito who discovered his singing talent first with his own orchestra (dubbed by musicians themselves as The School) before recommending him to Joe Cuba. Another veteran whose career started in that era, the great Chivirico Dávila, is invited to sit in for “Lo Mismo Que A Usted”. Lucca arranges this tune and segues it with the prefacing “Inolvidable” and the following “Tiemblas” (propelled by Los Durísimos: pianist/arranger Richie Ray and singer Bobby Cruz) as a medley.
Ismael Miranda, Justo Betancourt, and Héctor Lavoe are next in this homage, with their respective renditions of “El Agua de Belén” (with Luís Perico Ortiz claiming his space on trumpet), “Cara de Payaso” and “Cuando, Cuando, Cuando” Another veteran and one-time background vocalist for Tito (on Palladium Memories), Ismael Quintana, sings Tito’s tribute to Chilean soil “Fue En Santiago”. And in his debut with the lions, Rubén Blades shows his stripes on “A Los Muchachos de Belén”, passing his test with honors despite being under Cheo’s potent influence. [Here’s a piece of trivia: This is the only Fania All Stars studio album where Blades and Willie Colón perform together; the latter one would rise Blades to definite fame by helping him develop his own style and unique compositions.]
The 1976 “Tribute To Tito Rodríguez” tour maintained this same lineup for most of its shows, except for Ray Barretto (who signs with Atlantic in mid-tour, replaced later by Mongo Santamaría), trumpet ace Pedro Puchi Boulong, who replaced the great Ray Maldonado (who joins Stevie Wonder that same year, recommended to that position by Barretto himself and Izzy Sanabria), and several shows where Larry Harlow doesn’t perform (Papo Lucca, already in the lineup by then, covers his spot). Veteran Peruvian trap drummer/arranger Carlos Del Carpio (Peluzza) joins several of the tour shows, as well as pianist Markolino Dimond, trumpet virtuoso and former lead soloist for Tito Rodríguez, Victor Paz, and the queen Celia Cruz. Enjoy!
Ray Barretto – Congas, Drums (“Lo Mismo Que A Usted”, “Tiemblas”)
Willie Colón – Bass Trombone
Larry Harlow – Piano (solo on “Los Muchachos de Belén”)
Johnny Pacheco – Leader, Flute (solo on “Vuela La Paloma”)
Richie Ray – Piano (“Lo Mismo Que A Usted”, “Tiemblas”, “El Agua de Belén”)
Roberto Roena – Bongos, Congas (“Lo Mismo Que A Usted”, “Tiemblas”)
Bobby Valentín – Bass
Nicky Marrero – Timbales, Drums (“Inolvidable”), Bongos (“Lo Mismo Que A Usted”, “Tiemblas”)
Yomo Toro – Cuatro
Barry Rogers – Lead Trombone
Reynaldo Jorge – Trombone
Lewis Kahn – Trombone
Ray Maldonado – Lead Trumpet
Luís “Perico” Ortiz – Trumpet (solo on “El Agua de Belén”)
Héctor “Bomberito” Zarzuela – Trumpet
Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez – Güiro
Ismael Quintana – Maracas
Lead Vocals - Justo Betancourt (“Cara De Payaso”, “Vuela La Paloma”),Santos Colón (“Vuela La Paloma”), Héctor Lavoe (“Cuando, Cuando, Cuando”, “Vuela La Paloma”), Ismael Miranda (“El Agua De Belén”, “Vuela La Paloma”), Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez (“Vuela La Paloma”), Cheo Feliciano (“Inolvidable”, “Vuela La Paloma”), Bobby Cruz (“Tiemblas”, “Vuela La Paloma”),Ismael Quintana (“Fue En Santiago”, “Vuela La Paloma”), Chivirico Dávila (“Lo Mismo Que A Usted”), Rubén Blades (“Los Muchachos de Belén”)
Producer -Jerry Masucci, Larry Harlow, Louie Ramírez
Recording Director – Johnny Pacheco
Recorded at – Good Vibrations Sound Studios, New York City
Mixed – Good Vibrations and Bell Sound, New York City
Recording and Mixing Engineer – Jon Fausty
Original Album Art and Design – Ron Levine