The role of instruments in salsa

Discussion in 'Salsa Music' started by El Conguero, Aug 2, 2010.

  1. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Interesting article, sweavo. It's not just salsa, though, there's a lot of "fixing" parts in major jazz and classical recordings too. A lot has to do with economics, too. It may be a "salsa dura" recording but it's not easy for the independent artist or a producer on a limited budget to do it otherwise.

    You are right about one thing: the amazing professionalism and standards that the Palladium era had. I mean, listen to a Tito Rodriguez album and all of them are in the same room together. If the lead trumpet player misses a note they have to stop and do another take. That's pressure, but the results are magnificent. That said, the top latin jazz big bands still record live in the studio -- like Bebo Valdes' "Bebo de Cuba", the Latin Giants of Jazz, Arturo O'Farrill Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra -- so that tradition continues. They record in a way now so some things can be fixed later but for the most part it's still live.
  2. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    It's like the difference between a '70s Jackie Chan movie and a modern action flick. The new type is focused on the final product on the screen whereas in the old type you were watching a performance and the camera was there to capture it.

    Modern recorded music is a product, the recording is the product. This is a shift from older times where the performance was the product and the recording was a memory of it. Personally I would like my salsa to be rougher around the edges and giving a window into the performance, but I don't know whether enough listeners agree to make that a sellable proposition. Certainly record company people, engineers and record producers will all be biased against that option, for reasons of production cost and getting a reliably slick end product.
  3. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    I must admit it's very rare I hear a salsa new release that I like sufficiently to buy, a lot sound good but something's missing and I think we've just identified one of the main causes of that.
  4. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    I'm just checking the clips, it sounds very tight, you obviously know your stuff to be working on a recording of this calibre, well done and I wish you every success with your career. Hopefully you'll get a gig with a band who record the old fashioned way, as you said there are some still around, and maybe more will turn to this method in the future (particularly if any band leaders stumble upon this thread).

    For real.
  5. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    Top thread by the way gentlemen.
  6. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Thanks DJ Yuca. It's a good record -- made #1 on Latin Beat magazine New York hit parade at one point last year.

    I don't think the old fashioned recording thing is any secret. It's just the way things are done these days. Most modern studios aren't usually equipped to handle an entire 12 piece band at one time -- you have to go to the old studios that were designed and built for that but they're very expensive, or obsolete. Believe me, that recording I did, the bandleader would prefer to do it the old fashioned way but it's the budget, man. If an artist wants to do it that way and has the money or can convince the producer (ie "the money") then they can still do it.
  7. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    I must admit, although I'm glad The Latin Giants Of Jazz used the old fashioned method, the sound quality on both their CDs is off to my ears, so maybe even some of the studios that are equipped for all those musicians aren't really able to get it quite right. (Unless I'm the only who thinks that about The Latin Giants.)
  8. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Somehow this thread has veered off into a discussion about past and present salsa album production and recording process. That's cool, but I wanted to say something that I think is very important:

    Regardless of how a recording is made, whether it's one guy at a time, or a section at a time, or an entire 20-piece latin jazz big band all in one room together recording live -- it still comes down to musicianship and professionalism. Even if I'm the only musician in the studio at a given time, I've still got to play my part in time, in tune and with the right feeling and phrasing. That's the bottom line. The same as if I'm on a live gig. There's a reason you see a lot of the same names on production after production, and why certain musicians get the calls from the top bands and orchestras: because they are awesome musicians who can be relied on to play their instruments at the highest level.

    I was thinking last night of a fairly recent production that I've really been enjoying lately, "Ciclos", from Luis Enrique. Now I'm sure this very slick, hip, swinging, well arranged and immensely enjoyable recording was done in layers in a very modern studio. It's clean sounding with lot's of sparkle, but damn if Luis Enrique and all the musicians on the album don't nail every note of every tune. And what I also like is that it's not just love songs, there are some very socially-conscience lyrics in many of the songs. So, while I love the old school Palladium era recordings, some Cortijo, some 70's Fania, Palmieri, etc. I can also dig a modern production done with style and a high standard of musicianship.

    OK, enough of my ranting... back to the roles of instruments in salsa, now?
  9. Abayarde

    Abayarde Capitán Del Estilo

    got to admit that I have problems to dig an orchestra or group that miss some basic rhythm instruments in their performances or recordings.

    I will always admire Manny Oquendo and his successful carrier in latin music but never understood why he always wanted to play both timbales and bongo -just one at a time- during his Libre years.

    Mario Hernández has a similar problem with his own group, even when he has several sones and guarachas in his repertoire. He never wanted a timbal player because he say "it distracts the attention of the public and his own musicians".

    talking about excellence recordings, I will always admire those pioneers that worked as sound engineers in the 50's. Some of them worked miracles with their limited technology. Where technology is limited, acoustics and musicians location makes the trick (some of this techniques are still used with big bands).

    one of the best examples of this outstanding performances are some Sonora Matancera's recording sessions. Today, this originally monaural works are still considered as one of the most clean and acoustically efficient recordings.

    Just play their "Invites You To Dance" album...
  10. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Abayarde, how do you feel about La Sonora Ponceña and Conjunto Clásico?

    You're right about some of the great pioneering recording engineers from the 50's, amazing what some of them accomplished. They really had to be creative with microphone placement in relation to the acoustics of the room. Worlds away from salsa, but the 1955 RCA Victor recording of Béla Bartók's "Concerto for Orchestra" by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of the most astonishing and best sounding recordings ever.
  11. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    I think I know what you're referring to. Very listenable but in these recordings some of the instruments sound a bit "distant", which they might have trying to do on purpose, to give it that "old school sound". And on the "Trip to Mamboland" CD the trumpet section is panned hard left most of the time so they are barely audible in the right channel.
  12. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero


    Henry Fiol is another timbale-free artist, I remember he did an interview on Descarga last year where he made very disparaging remarks about that instrument. As I see it, if the artist wants to break the rules then that's their vision of how they want to sound and it's their right, obviously it's also our right to decide if we like it or not. (Personally I like timbale but I can live without on some tracks.)

    Lots of good music recommendations on this thread incidentally.
  13. kbitten

    kbitten Clave Commander

    just reading and learning :)
  14. El Caobo

    El Caobo Maestro 'Salsa' Palmieri

    Anyone want to chime in on the role of the voice; especially that of the sonero in salsa?
  15. El Conguero

    El Conguero Tumbao

    Yeah, really...

    It's easy to find vids about clave, congas, timbales, piano etc. but next 2 nothing about the voice. I haven't heard of a "sonero" but if it's based on son (a Cuban element at the root of salsa) then a "sonero" would be someone who sings son music... but what are the other parts?

    Thanks Caobo 4 the suggestion. :)
  16. Abayarde

    Abayarde Capitán Del Estilo

    forgot to mention Conjunto Clásico as an example. I really like their music but it always seems to miss something when no timbal is heard.

    Also like Sonora Ponceña but sometimes I feel they keep their trumpet arrangements too loud, shadowing the rest of the musicians. Is known that Papo love to keep their trumpets in a very prominent position to achieve a fanfare effect (more details in Papo.htm). Sound engineers that worked in their recordings from the 70's and 80's just enhanced this effect making it worse. This is why I prefer to listen them in a live show.
  17. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Great idea! There's a lot to say about the sonero.

    A salsa performance just isn't a performance without the sonero, right? I mean, you can have the best all star band, the best arrangement, best venue, best dancers, sound system, etc. -- but it doesn't mean anything without the sonero. He (or she) is the one that delivers the goods, so to speak. Forget about Jerry Rivera. Give me Cano Estremera or Luisito Carrion any day. Cano can spend 30 minutes improvising soneos on "La Boda de Ella" and never repeat himself.

    The sonero has to have the voice, the confidence, the charisma, the humor, the master of rhythm and rhyme, the delivery... There are so many different kinds of voices, from the strong powerful voices of people like Pedro Brull, Maelo Ruiz, Roberto Lugo to the higher pitched voices of Hector Tricoche or Frankie Ruiz -- and everything in between. It's all good.

    A great sonero also has to be an entertainer and engage the audience. Some are like standup comics in between tunes (ever see Luisito Carrion live?), keeping the audience wrapped around their finger. It helps if the sonero is good looking but women love words, so that doesn't always matter.

    The sonero usually has his (or her - don't want to leave out the ladies, like Yolanda Rivera or Choco Orta) signature catch phrase, usually spoken during the mambo or [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica]moña[/FONT] (eg. Hector Tricoche 's "ay dio mio!" or Tito Nieves "chula")

    Any other thoughts on the sonero?
  18. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Check out this article: www .
  19. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    Yeah, Papo Lucca likes his trumpets all right. Have you seen the performance of Yare from the 50 anniversary album? Great performance by sonero Luisito Carrion, but dig that Papo added a timbal player and a fifth trumpet (Luis Aquino, no less!). How's this work for you? www .
  20. El Conguero

    El Conguero Tumbao

    Thanks, that was interesting.

    I can't even imagine "battles" in salsa (though this was dealing with son). That almost reminds me of what reggaetoneros and others do. The only thing, though, is it doesn't say much about the role of the different singers in salsa today. Anyway looking forward to reading this in its entirety, but from what I see it's all about some of the best soneros out there - so 4 the rest of u if that intrests u it's one awesome article!

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