Monday, January 10, 2011

LA-33: Bogota-style salsa

Every year, some fine records come out that I don't find out about until the following year (I'm sure that happens to you too). For me right now, one of the best ones was from a Colombian salsa band called LA-33.

At the always-entertaining Globalfest in New York this past weekend, they were the highlight. No other band I saw there got the crowd dancing as much or put on such a lively stage show. As with any band like that, it's hard to capture that excitement on disc (hint: see 'em live) but their latest Ten Cuidado (available from their website) is a good souvenir to savor. Live, bandleader/bassist Sergio Mejia (top right in the photo) leads the band melodically but on record, you're more likely to hear out the horn section, especially sax-man Juan F. Cardenas, and the three percussionists. Live, you also get to see the dynamics of the three singers and a stage show that climaxes with the whole band freezing in dramatic poses except for Cardenas, who blows solo like a wildman until the rest of the band comes roaring back in.

With Ten Cuidado, you have a fine danceable record, featuring songs from Mejia and Cardenas alongside the Police's "Roxanne" (which is much more bearable here than hearing Sting sing it). Also on this third album, they supposedly lean heavier on political commentary and boogaloo music (combo of R&B and Cuban music) but what you might notice is the "Sympathy For the Devil" intro on Cardenas' "Salsa Resucito" (granted that the Stones themselves took their cue from salsa) or the exciting "Me Quedo" where the singers and horns try to outdo each other (it's a draw, but an exciting one) or the killer finale "Mambo Con Boogaloo" which almost captures the heat of their shows. True, you don't get their hilarious take on the "Pink Panther Theme" here but it's not an album that you wanna sit down to listen to nevertheless.


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