Review: Pacific Mambo Orchestra “El Cantante”

Aloha NewGenSalsa Peeps!

Those of us who are hard-core salseros familiar with the classic hit “El Cantante” made famous by “el cantante de los cantantes…. Hector LaVoe. The ironic thing is that the song was written by Ruben Blades and he decided to give it to Hector who was having some well documented self inflicted road blocks in his career and the rest as they say…is history. It became Hectors signature song that he performed for years for his adoring fans.

In 2010, at the Hawaii Salsa Festival, Hong Kwon a respected DJ in the Bay Area told me about an orchestra that was playing on Monday nights at Café Cocomo in San Francisco. He knew of my affinity for the big band sound and Latin jazz. He mentioned some of the musicians who were part of the band and right away I knew this band had to swing. With likes of Karl Perrazo, he of the Carlos Santana band along with singers Willie Torres, who sings “El Cantante” including Alexa Weber Morales, Kenny Washington and Carlos Cascante and some of the best musicians on the left coast, I could only dream of getting to see or hear them anytime soon.

In 2012, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra released their first CD titled PMO. I was very excited to hear it and it did not disappoint. The more I listened to it the more I enjoyed it. First of all, it’s danceable and it has that big band sound with rich horn arrangements and a tight tight rhythm section. Shades of the Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez orchestras come to mind. The recording is filled with classic salsa; instrumentals with tasty solos, a salsa in English cover of the Stevie Wonder tune Overjoyed, a bolero and even a Bachata. The CD has a little bit of everything for everybody.

Under the direction of pianist Christian Tumalan and trumpeter Steffen Kuehn the recording has gotten critical acclaim from many in the Latin music industry. Descarga.Com had it as one of the best recordings of 2012 and I agree.

This is a must have for your collection.

Until next time,

Ray Cruz
Pacific Rim Contributor for New Gen Salsa