Eddie Montalvo has provided the rhythmic firmament for some of the greatest salsa luminaries ever assembled. Beginning on the bongos, Eddie was transformed into a conguero in his playing with Julio Romero and the Latin Jazz All-Stars.
After making music with the likes of Rubén Blades, Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón, and Johnny Pacheco, he became a conguero master. After a tenure with the Fania All-Stars, he released his first solo album in 1995 entitled “On My Own.” In 2001, Eddie joined Joe Madera’ Big 3 Palladium Orchestra. In 2012, Eddie released his second solo album, “Desde Nueva York a Puerto Rico.”
The album was recorded in New York and in Puerto Rico and the flavors of both places are easily heard on this second outing with Eddie as bandleader. This energetic and entertaining album was nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award in the Best Tropical Latin Album category.
The compositions are credited to greats such as Justi Barretto, Junior Toledo, Tite Curet, Raphael Ithier, Domingo Quiñones and more. Arrangements were crafted by the likes of Carlos Torres, Pablo "Chino" Nuñez, Papo Lucca, José M. Lugo, and Nelson Jaime. Vocalists include Ruben Blades (“El Hijo Del Ricachon”), Cheo Feliciano (“Caonabo”), Rico Walker (“Amor En Serio”), Tito Gonzalez (“Abicu”), Domingo Quiñones (“Leccion Rumbera”), Wichy Camacho (“Ensillala”, “Garantia”), Issac Delgado (“Tumba Tambo”), and Hector "Pichie" Perez (“Timba Timbero”).
That is to say, this album brings the stars of New York and Puerto Rico under the direction and vision of Eddie Montalvo. And Eddie delivers.
In “Abicu”, Tito Gonzalez calls out to Eddie Montalvo in this opening track after a scorching horn introduction. The piano and rhythm section play percussively together as the vocals of Tito and the horn accompaniment work the melody splendidly together.
“Amor En Serio” features the singing of Rico Walker with striking horn interludes. The backing vocals provide the sing-along parts that stick in the listener’s head whether you understand Spanish or not. So help me, I think I dreamed about this track when I went to bed. That’s memorable stuff. “Caonabo” carries forward the great horns and riveting piano.
The baseball-inspired “El Hijo Del Ricachon” highlights the one and only Ruben Blades. The piece opens with a delicate piano introduction that gives way to those blistering horns. The parallel playing of bass and piano anchors the middle section.
As a lover of baseball, this was the track that grabbed me the most, especially when at 3:41 the unmistakable baseball stadium organ is heard that springs the band into a quick cover of “Take Me Out the Ball Game” complete with sounds of the cheering crowds and Ruben’s shout out to Eddie.
“Ensillala” and “Garantia” both present Wichy Camacho on vocals. The amazing rhythms and the playing of those rhythms by Eddie and his band are astounding. It takes several listens to separate the rhythms and identify who is playing what rhythmic line. It is time well spent.
Throughout this album, the piano work of Jose M. Jugo and Enrique “Papo” Lucca on piano provide delicious underscores beneath the prominence of horns and percussion. The keyboard work is hot, as hot as the horns. That piano and bass work is on great exhibition during “Leccion Rumbera.” While Domingo Quiñones is in great voice for this song, the piano and bass are captivating.
The album closes out with the pieces “Timba Timbero” (Hector (Pichie) Perez, vocals) and “Tumba Tambo” (Issac Delgado, vocals). The rhythms and melodies are in complete compliment with each other.
The album is well-paced and each track offers its own unique reinterpretation of what makes Salsa and Latin Jazz so thrilling and intriguing. The arrangements are bright and the performance of each and every musician is flawless. Especially Eddie Montalvo.
The musicians all deserve to be named, even if in a clumsy list:
Jose M. Jugo -Piano
Enrique (Papo) Lucca -Piano
Pedro Perez -Bass
Maximo Rodriguez -Bass
Jan Duclerc, Piro Rodriguez, Jesus Alonso &amp;amp;amp; Nelson Jaime (Gazu) -Trumpet
Nelson Jaime (Gazu) -Trumpet
Jorge Diaz, Reynaldo Jorge, Antonio (Toñito) Vazquez, &amp;amp;amp; Pablo Santaella -Trombone
Frankie Perez, Ernesto Sanchez, &amp;amp;amp; Ivan Renta -Baritone
Eddie Montalvo -Conga, Quinto, Tumbadora
Jimmie Morales -Seguidor
Ray Colon -Bongo
Pablo (Chino) Nuñez, Willie Rosario -Timbales
Hector (Pichie) Perez -Guiro
Jeremy Montalvo -Maracas
Darvel Garcia, Hector (Pichie) Perez, Wichy Camacho, &amp;amp;amp; Japhet O. Rodriguez -Chorus
Ruben Blades, Cheo Feliciano, Rico Walker, Tito Gonzalez, Domingo Quiñones, Wichy Camacho, Issac Delgado, Hector (Pichie) Perez –Vocals
These are truly all-stars on Eddie’s own team.
“Desde Nueva York a Puerto Rico” is a delightful listening experience. It is uplifting and energizing. It is fun and it is affectionate. It is warm like Puerto Rico and it is tight like New York.
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