This is salsa at its best. After a 16-year tenure with Puerto Rican salsa institution La Sonora Ponceña, percussionist “Little” Johnny Rivero showcases his compositional talents on this hip-shaking outing that’s sure to please salsa dura (tough salsa) enthusiasts around the globe. With exquisite arrangements by Andrés Hernández and former-Batacumbele pianist Eric Figueroa, Little Johnny opens with this homage to his drum, his mentors and his former bandmates in the sizzling opener “Pequeño Johnny.” What follows is even more fire and excitement as the next five tracks unfold before the calming and funky “Mi Yambú,” which showcases the brilliant Giovanni Hidalgo on quinto and cajón as well as tres maestro Nelson González.
Other guest appearances include violin virtuoso Alfredo De La Fe, who shines on “Le Traigo La Última,” and pianist (and Sonora Ponceña director) Papo Lucca on “Mr. LP,” the one instrumental track on the album (penned by Eric Figueroa). Rivero’s solid conga playing and tasty breaks and solos pepper this album, but the focus is the dance-generating grooves. This swings like classic salsa and plays all the way through as if you were there (NYC or Ponce, take your pick), bringing back the joy of well-played, well-produced, feel-good music.