“The Bronx Puerto Rican Factor In The Birth Of Salsa” Luis Chaluisan Salsa Magazine

One area Salsa documentaries completely overlook are Puerto Rican house parties from the late 1950’s to the ’70s. NY’s Puerto Rican community undergoes a dramatic shift in the early sixties as the Piri Thomas generation of Marine Tigers (Boricuas that arrive from Puerto Rico from 1930-1960) sees a wave of poorer undereducated Puerto Ricans arrive from the Island increasing NY’s PR population. In 1910 only 500 people of Puerto Rican descent maintained residences in New York City (Hosay 40), this number skyrocketed to an astounding 817,000 in 1970, of those about 40 percent of them lived in the Bronx avg age 19.

These PR’s didn’t have a lot of expendable cash, so it is House Parties. These are large family events where tunes and rum flow freely.
No DJ’s, everyone brought their own Latin Music LP’s to mix and match for the get together. It is not uncommon to have 100 LP’S on hand.
In 1962-70, Puerto Ricans in the Bronx and Brooklyn dance to HI FI Records of PUERTO RICAN’S playing music – Daniel Santos guarachas, Mon Rivera plenas, bombas and brassy combinations of everything but the kitchen sink arrangements, Willie Colon, The Lebron Brothers, Cortijo Y Su Combo with Ismael Rivera, El Gran Combo, Joe Cuba, Richie Ray Jala Jala and Palmieri’s music along with a long list of Boricua groups/singers with not one Cuban group in it.
The Puerto Ricans I talk about are not downtown nightlife people. They are not “rumberos” in love with the almighty Havana.
This is the community of the neighborhood (Barrio), bodega, the social club and surviving. This is also the community that forms Salsa’s earliest fan base.
Their hand in the birth of Salsa is simple as far as we’re concerned. Someone had to pay to see La Perfecta play at the Triton’s Social Club. They came from the neighborhood.
And later Crooklyn Ricans tightened up to The Lebron Brothers Salsa Y Control in Brooklyn much the same way in their social club outings.
It’s time Puerto Ricans rightfully claim their place in that so called sacro sant Cuban development of Latin Music vis a vis Salsa in NY.
We’ll grant you this, it is a Puerto Rican Tito Puente who saves and maintains Cuban music in NY with his Big Band during the fifties (Dance Mania 1958).
But the Cuban thing is dead by 1962 in NY. Things even get tough for Celia Cruz during this period.
The genius of Eddie Palmieri is that he (a Puerto Rican) is able to breathe life into those stale Cuban traditions of musical styles with musical theories in collaboration with trombonist Barry Rogers that still reverberate today.
For our dollar, Palmieri’s LP is the Bible of arrangements for SALSA and Latin NY is the Bible that recorded it all when it was worth recording.
I’ll recap what I’ve said, I don’t care how trailblazing or traditional (see Afro Cuban) your music is if people don’t buy it, it disappears.
In 1962 New York Puerto Ricans buy Puerto Rican Eddie Palmieri’s record like pirulies and Puerto Rican Al Santiago has a slew of high selling hits on Alegre with Puerto Rican Izzy Sanabria creating marketing strategies along with art to sell more lp’s.
All this supported by an ever growing YOUNG PR population.
I think what the problem with the Lords Of Culture who dominate the Salsa discussion is that they are married to a perspective oppressive to Puerto Ricans and are just parroting Cuban ideology because it is in the Party Line.
I say WAKE UP! The days of Black Beans are over!
I cannot iterate enough – NO FANS- NO PR COMMUNITY- NO SALES- NO LIFE.
And Puerto Ricans buy, sell and live Salsa.
Things didn’t suddenly jump up and save the industry with Palmieri’s album and Alegre’s success.
Overall the Latino Record Industry was suffering low sales.
The person most responsible for injecting new life into the Latin Record Industry is Richie Ray in 1964.
He brings youth and swing along with Doc Cheetham. Not bad for a two year old genre yet to be recognized as such.

1962 – The Salsa Atom implodes to create a new musical universe
Commonly held misconceptions of Salsa’s Marketing as a genre
Ignacio Pinero recorded echale salsita in 1929 and there were other recordings like Salsa Negra that were done before. Salsa as a marketing tool for music came much later as these mention talk about a sauce or cooking.
(Food references not marketing terms/Latin NY which is focus of this documentary)
As a Jerry Masucci tool it didn’t happen until Venezuelan dj Phideas Danilo Escalona uses term on radio show interview with Richie Ray in 1966 and that is the Salsa outbreak period.
(Where is the audio of this event? It cannot be academically proven. Second hand information)
It didn’t happen in 1962 although with the Cuban bridge closed since 1960 the anglo influence was marked in the bogaloo and shingaling, but Salsa was still far from coming.
(A “singularity” event like the start of the universe begins with an atom imploding. The atom in question is MARKETING.
As a Latin NY writer and music editor of the magazine I am following tradition of Latin NY writers (Carlos DeLeon/Carlos De Jesus/Max Salazar) in challenging “establishment Spanish Media views” of the development of our music. Salazar provides us with the “Salsa and Bembe” (Jimmy Sabater/Cheo Feliciano Steppin Out Seeco records) 1962 moment. Read the following background notes for La Perfecta moment.)
Finally, we are deconstructing an attributed quote that “Salsa was at its best a rehashed 1959 Havana Radio Top 20 playlist.
In addition to Ritmo Caliente (an original tune by Palmieri) La Perfecta/Santiago and company include Rafael Hernandez composition “Cachita” that summarizes all that happens in the Salsa era.
Background Notes:
The common theory is that SALSA was coined by a South American Disc Jokey to describe the new swing in Latin Music being created by NYC Puerto Rican musicians in 1966 but in our research for “SALSA: The Untold Story” we have discovered that the initiation of the term is a bit more organic.
During the late 30’s while the Hispanic community was sprouting in Spanish Harlem, Gabriel Oller, proprietor of Tatay’s Spanish Music Center on the corner of 110th Street and 5th Avenue remembers shouts of “échale pique, caliéntalo, menealo que se empelota…” used to describe the thrilling Afro-Cuban dance rhythms of rumbas and guarachas.
Salsa remained dormant until 1962.
Eddie Palmieri and Ismael Quintana use the term during 4 opening choruses in the song “RITMO CALIENTE” to describe the rhythm La Perfecta is playing on Palmieri’s first Alegre release in 1962 Produced by Al Santiago.
In 1963 Alegre Records released Charlie Palmieri’s charanga LP Salsa Na Ma. In the Heny Alvarez tune Salsa Na Ma, the chorus of Victor Velasquez and Willie Torres suggest that when they dance with their partners it is Salsa na ma…Que cosa rica (a joy).”
Al Santiago’s liner notes described the music as salsa when he wrote “La Duboney (Palmieri’s band) is a musical aggregation that functions as an individual unit and possesses that all important ‘sauce’ necessary for satisfying the most demanding of musical tastes. It is for this reason that this LP album offering is titled Salsa Na Ma.
When Eddie Palmieri made La perfecta, his first solo record, in 1962, he’d spent years paying dues in New York’s finest mambo big bands, serving the needs of discerning dancers. The pianist and composer borrowed ideas from those bands, added dashes of jazz irreverence, and convinced an unflappable young singer (Ismael Quintana) and a bunch of precision-minded instrumentalists to join what he envisioned as a highenergy combo. The group quickly evolved into a perfectly proportioned rhythmic juggernaut; its aptly titled debut endures as one of the most exciting in the history of Latin music.
It’s also one of the most influential. Palmieri’s terse arrangements feature trombones as often as trumpets, frequently with a flute on top. That alignment, which makes the seven-piece horn section seem as robust as a big band, was borrowed by countless salsa stars of the late ’60s and ’70s, among them Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe).
As often as it’s been copied, there’s lots about La perfecta that remains untouchable. The ensemble executes everything with unsurpassed unity, and when one musician steps out for a solo—in addition to electrifying turns from Palmieri, this album contains swaggering hall-of-fame ad-libs by trombonist Barry Rogers—the others provide assured, steadying support. No tune here lasts more than three minutes, and as a result, the solos are usually abbreviated. That doesn’t mean they’re not potent: Cue up “Conmigo” or “Ritmo caliente” to hear Palmieri, the jazz daredevil, dispensing jolting, syncopated chords as though he’s trying to give dancers conniptions. On later records, Palmieri would elaborate at much greater length; the solos here offer thrills and spills in short, super-concentrated bursts.
Compare Mon Rivera’s charts for three and four trombones with the horn parts created by Barry Rogers and Eddie Palmieri. An intuitive man for whom making music was as natural as breathing, Mon’s arrangements used simple diatonic harmonies often presented homorhythmically. The chord changes are often limited to tonic and dominant harmony, with an occasional subdominant or other scale degree. His triads are usually voiced as closely as possible; octaves are common. La Perfecta’s charts show a far greater degree of harmonic intricacy and jazz influence without sacrificing one iota of sabor. On Mon Rivera’s recordings the most common high note for the trombones is the G above the piano’s middle C; some A’s and a very rare B flat can be heard. Sometimes it seems that where Mon’s trombone sections leave off range-wise, Eddie’s begin. Much of what Barry plays on La Perfecta albums lies between the F above middle C and the C a fifth above this note. There’s no question that his exploitation of a consistently higher range than any previous trombonist in Latin music contributed to much of La Perfecta’s visceral excitement. Writing in this range also has a practical advantage – the trombonist will normally have to use only the first three or four positions, and will not have to move the slide as far as playing parts written in a middle to lower range. It is this middle to lower range where much of Mon Rivera’s trombone parts are written. In addition to his work with La Perfecta, Joe Orange subbed on Mon Rivera’s band at dances and recorded with him. He observed: “You can hear a lot of trombone bands where the writer doesn’t understand the instrument he’s writing for like Eddie did, and that’s the difference. And you can even hear the awkwardness in the execution, Mon’s is kind of rough because he didn’t write for that upper middle register. His lines may look easy on paper, but they can be a lot more awkward than they look. But Eddie really knew where the sound of the trombone was, which is really in that middle to upper register.” It must be noted that playing in this range was one of the innovations of innovative trombonists of the late 1920’s, giving them a newly acquired facility compared with earlier players. As a student of the playing of Jack Teagarden, Lawrence Brown, and J.C. Higginbotham, Barry Rogers understood this perfectly. It must also be said that the last thing on my mind is to show the least particle of disrespect for the brilliance of Mon Rivera’s rhythmic concept, his greatness as a sonero, and the place he has won in the collective heart of Puerto Rico. My point is that Eddie Palmieri and Barry Rogers set the highest possible standards for trombone writing, regardless of musical genre http://quantumvision2.wix.com/luis-chaluisan


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