PICK SIX: NUEVO LATIN SABOR


Bronx River Parkway & Candela All Stars: Donde
Bronx River Parkway & Candela All Stars: San Sebastian 152
From San Sebastian 152 (Truth and Soul/Candela, 2008)

Johnny Pacheco: Boogaloo De Johnny (Quantic Remix)
Dave Cortez: Happy Soul With a Hook (DJ Format Remix)
From I Like It Like That (Fania, 2008)

Los Po-Boy-Citos: Wobble Cha
Los Po-Boy-Citos: Fat Mama/Mother-In-Law
From New Orleans Latin Soul (2008)

You have retro-soul on one hand but there’s also an equally strong trend of what I’m going to call nuevo-Latin (just for the hell of it): soul/funk-influenced Afro-Cuban rhythms whipped together by a younger generation of musicians. The UK’s Quantic is probably one of the best known of this cohort, but you could also include Grupo Fantasma and Chica Libre or Brownout (I’m sure there are many, many more). However, the one I’ve been keeping tabs on has been the Bronx River Parkway and Candela All Stars joint project. I first heard them probably around 2006 and then was reminded of them again in 2007 and the group – lead by the same people in the El Michels Affair/Truth and Soul – has finally completed its debut album, San Sebastian 152 which should be shipping any day now.

Bronx River Parkway combines players out of the Truth and Soul camp with a host of Puerto Rican musicians, many of them veterans from bands once lead by Roberta Roena and Cortijo. Most of this album was originally begun during a trip down to San Juan in 2006. The result is a great meeting point between the tight, funky arrangements that Truth and Soul is known for and the infectious Latin swing brought by their PR counterparts. You really hear that on the title song, especially in how beautifully the horn sections from both bands really give the song such a shine.

“Donde” I included because I was tickled by its nod to one of the great Latin soul/boogaloo joints of all time: “Freak Off” by Orchestra Harlow. It’s not a cover per se, but clearly riffs of the Harlow classic.


Speaking of Quantic and while we’re on the Latin tip already, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that Fania has just put out their “remixed” compilation which features a slew of their remix sides (formerly on 12″) on one disc. Considering how quickly many of those singles sold-out, it’s nice that they put them out on one disc. To be honest, while there’s some stuff on here that I thought was really solid (such as the two tracks above), like most remix albums, there’s a good deal of material that I personally just didn’t care much for, especially the more house/techno-oriented remixes which aren’t my musical bag.

Of the material I did like, the “Happy Soul With a Hook” edit by DJ Format was one of the first 12″s that Fania released and it’s easy to see its appeal – super uptempo, funky and big with Xtina fans. This is the same song I wrote about in the Happy Soul Suite and Format reworks this particular version by playing with the drums and giving it some extra kick. I do, personally, miss the vocals from the original Latin Blues Band song but hey, I guess I could remix the remix.

Anyways, the Quantic remix of “Boogaloo De Johnny” was a very nice surprise – I guess I’m used to QSO’s more uptempo styles, but this is more like that great remix of Nas’ “Get Down” with its reggae sabor. Overall, I like that approach here – stripping the song down and building it up rather than putting too much on it. (I don’t own any Pacheco boogaloo albums – anyone know what the original to this was off of or is it a cut n paste job of several songs?)


Lastly, we have a new group out of NOLA, the Los Bo-Boy-Citos, a six-man, second-line-meets-Latin-soul outfit. Their conceit is intriguing – take NOLA’s funk/soul heritage (itself Cuban-influenced) and then throw in an East Harlem vibe and see what cooks up. At the risk of being an essentialist, I associate both New Orleans and Spanish Harlem sounds with more gritty, lo-fi flavor and this is a little too clean for my tastes; compare their take on “Fat Mama” with Tito Puente’s original and you’ll see what I mean. That said, 1) the latter song’s combination with Allen Toussaint’s “Mother In Law” is inspired, to say the least, plus 2) I’m slightly in awe of any band that knows about – let alone covers – such obscure-r fare such as “Danzon Boogaloo, arguably the very first “official” Latin boogaloo ever record, by Ricardo Ray, or Cool Benny’s “Wobble Cha” (see below).

Also, in an unexpected way, their sound is actually much closer to what boogaloo sounded like in the jazz world during the late ’60s era of Blue Note/Prestige artists like Lou Donaldson and “Boogaloo Joe” Jones. That boogaloo fad in jazz was never very connected to the jazz world (from what I’ve been able to research), Les McCann’s Bucket O’ Grease excepted, and in a serendipitous way, Los Po-Boy-Citos create that missing link between the jazz and Latin boogaloo styles.


Bonus: Cool Benny: Wobble Cha
From 7″ (Virgo, 196?). Also on California Soul.

For a bonus, I thought I’d throw on the original “Wobble Cha” – one of those lesser-known West Coast Latin dance tunes. I first heard about it from the California Soul comp (and I might now actually own the 7″ that it was mastered from) and DJ Little Danny from Office Naps (which is BACK!) also wrote about it in his Pt. 1 on “West Coast Latin jazz vibes” posts (by sheer coincidence, he just posted up his Pt. 2). “Wobble Cha” has “novelty” all over it which isn’t a bad thing (and to be sure, there were a few Latin artists with wobble cuts but it was never as big as even the shing-a-ling, let alone boogaloo) – the song has a fun little swing to it and I’m a big fan of the mambo-era vibes flavor.

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