Salsa Norteña is the latest CD release by composer/trombonist Rick Davies and contains eight high-energy salsa and Latin jazz songs that reflect the 25 years that he was active on the salsa, Caribbean, and jazz music scenes in New York City. With the new CD Davies continues his equal commitment to both Latin music and jazz. Chico Manqueros of Latin Jazz Club Magazine describes: “his line of attack is to play with a swing that is not only harmonic but also danceable.” In discussing Davies’ Latin trombone soloing, Chicago DJ El Caobo states: “during these parts of the song, I cannot resist the urge to dance.”
An important influence on his creative sensibilities was his long time relationship with the Internationally renowned group Salsa Picante led by pianist Wayne Gorbea. For over twenty years, Davies was trombone soloist, composer/arranger, and musical director for this popular salsa dura group. He has performed on and supplied compositions and arrangements for six Salsa Picante CDs. Among the places he has appeared with the band are Tokyo, Sydney, Budapest, Amsterdam, Great Britain, and Colombia.
Additionally, he worked with a number of other top artists including Tito Puente, Wyclef Jean, Jaki Byard, Arrow, Johnny Colon, Charlie Palmieri, Mario Bauza, Conjunto Libre, Blondie, Gloria Gaynor, Santiago Ceron, and many others. He has recorded with the rock group Blondie as well as with Michael Jackson, Mya, and Wyclef Jean. Davies also did live appearances with Wyclef for President and Mrs. Clinton and at the Giants stadium Netaid concert. He filmed a VH1 Storytellers episode with Wyclef and the Refugee All-Stars. Davies has traveled extensively with the Big Apple Circus and is featured on Jaki Byard’s Phantasies II recording.
After relocating to New York’s North Country a decade ago (to join the faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh), he started a Latin jazz group (Jazzismo) and released two acclaimed CDs: Salsa Strut (with Arturo O’Farrill, Harvie S, Vince Cherico, etc.) and Siempre Salsa. Siempre Salsa was released in 2006 and features many of the best Latin and jazz musicians of New York and nearby Vermont. Among these are Vermont musicians who are also on Salsa Norteña – pianist Tom Cleary, bassist John Rivers, and tenor saxophonist Alex Stewart.
Two years ago, Davies started a new group dedicated to performing NYC-style salsa dura. He named the group Salsa Norteña and recruited a number of musicians from the thriving Montreal Latin scene. Among these are singer/saxophonist Jorge “Papo” Ross (originally from the Dominican Republic) and Venezuelan percussionists Jonathan Maldonado and Neville “Pichi” Ainsley.
Rick Davies came by his Latin sensibilities early on growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During and following his years at the University of New Mexico, he performed and recorded with various R&B and Tex-Mex groups around the southwest and west coast.
His expertise in Afro-Cuban music was honed at New York University, where he received a a Ph.D. in 1999. His dissertation research there resulted in, among other things, a book published by Scarecrow Press in 2003. The book, Trompeta: Chappottín, Chocolate, and the Afro-Cuban Trumpet Style, is a thorough study in the Cuban brass solo style. Dr. Davies is currently a full professor in the music department at SUNY Plattsburgh, where he served as chair and was awarded the SUNY Chancellors Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities.
The new CD – Salsa Norteña – includes eight original songs by Rick Davies. Four of the pieces (1, 3, 5, 7) are straight-ahead salsa dura vocal songs featuring the lead vocals of Papo Ross. These selections were recorded in Montreal. The other four pieces (2, 4, 6, 8) are instrumental Latin jazz tunes that were recorded in Vermont and feature guest artist Ray Vega (another North Country transplant from NYC) on Trumpet along side veteran musicians from both sides of the U.S./Canadian border.