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The best Salsa Orchestra…IN THE WORLD
In the 1970s Tipica ’73 boldly proclaimed “somos los campeones de la salsa en Nueva York” (We are the salsa champions in New York). And rightfully so—not many could dispute that statement.
On Saturday, May 1, 2010 at the Westgate Lounge in Nyack, New York vocalist, Frankie Vazquez proudly announced “this is the best salsa orchestra… in the world”. I am here to say this is accurate, precise and true.
To whom does this announcement refer? The MAMBO LEGENDS! This 21 piece orchestra (yes 21) created magic in Nyack, NY. From the moment they began the song Blen Blen Blen, we collectively knew we were in for a treat. This band was cooking with nuclear power! They played with dynamics, changing intensity from powerful to silky and in your face to melodically beautiful.
We were in music lover’s paradise. It was like traveling through a time machine. One could imagine the electric atmosphere during the days of the Palladium. It was mambo at its best. The melodic tones from the five saxophones set up mambos and moñas that transported us to other dimensions. The musicians were “in the zone” and many of us went along for the ride.
But how could this big band do any less? The orchestra is a collection of masters. Many of them were part of the Tito Puente Orchestra. They reconfigured after the King’s death and emerged as the Latin Giants of Jazz. They have re-emerged as the Mambo Legends and seem to be tearing it up everywhere they go.
They are led by timbalero, Jose Madera, bongosero, Johnny Rodriguez and saxophonist/flautist, Mitch Froman. A partial list of the personnel also includes Sonny Bravo on piano, George Delgado on congas, Jerry Madera on bass, Pete Miranda on sax and several more. Solo’s by legendry trombonist, Sam Burtis were inspired. Trumpeters Pete Nater and Richie Viruet each took solos and then later did competing solos. It was a tie.
Frankie Vazquez with his street smarts puts forth inspired soneos (vocal improvisations). He employs wit and humor and worked in the names of some in the audience. He sounds just as good in English as demonstrated on the tune Mambo Land which begins with the storyline in English. Joining Frankie on vocals is Marcos Bermudez (who does double duty with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra). His voice transfers perfectly into the two part harmony and is wonderful on lead vocals.
Cita Rodriguez is the band’s rising star. She is the daughter of legendary Fania All Star vocalist, Pete “El Conde ” (The Count) Rodriguez. It is apparent she learned much at his knee. Her voice is strong, clear and controlled. There is no struggle, no discomfort, no failed attempts. She delivers with ease. Whether singing chorus or the lead, upbeat or bolero, Cita’s voice is on pointe. In addition, her vocal harmony is exact.
Celia Cruz will always be the Queen of Salsa, and La India is called the Princess of Salsa. However, Cita Rodriguez deserves the title of Countess of Salsa. She is salsa royalty.
Cita made it clear she was on stage representing women. She is a single mother, a school teacher by day and a songstress by night. Her song Ahora Mismo tore the house down. It is marvelous that this woman has penetrated the male dominated salsa world. She is now situated on top of that world singing for The best Salsa Orchestra…IN THE WORLD.
eMinor, Inc. (c) 2014