FLYING HIGH WITH “FALCON”

Caffe: Falcon (Godo, 197?)

Speaking of mysteries, I know next to nothing about this salsa 45 but full credit for its discovery goes to Michael Barnes who played it for me last year and I was instantly hooked.

First, I love Afro-Latin dance music that makes use of the electric piano. If you have ever sat with the glory that is Ray Barretto’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” you know how good the instrument can sound in the right hands.

However, what makes “Falcon” so memorable isn’t simply the instrumentation. The arrangement here is funky but in what I find to be a very distinct way. There’s songs that fall into a clear “Latin funk” category; take Ricardo Marrero’s “Babalonia” for example. However, “Falcon” isn’t that kind of funk tune; to me, it’s primarily a salsa dura cut that incorporates just enough funky polyrhythms — and that electric piano — to give it this subtle funk foundation while still staying true to its Afro-Cuban roots. The absolute gold standard for funky salsa cuts is Roberta Roena’s epic “Que Se Sepa” but while I don’t think “Falcon” is quite at the same level, it’s definitely in the mix with other top quality funky salsa dura jams like Luis Santi’s sizzling “Los Feligreses” from the ’70s or Peliroja’s 2014 jam “Ciudad de Nadie.” But who were Caffe? Where were they originally from? As Michael notes in his blog, he’s stumped everyone he’s played it for thus far and I’m no closer than he is to solving this particular riddle.

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