When looking back at the early days, like everyone else, my passion for music probably began at home with those initial albums that surrounded my childhood and exposed me to a healthy bilingual and multi-cultural upbringing in the urban jungle of New York City. The popular sounds of Nat King Cale, The Platters, Elvis Presley and Bobby Darin emanated from neighboring apartments, mixing in with the sounds of Los Panchos, Tito Rodriguez, Machito, Tito Puente and Cortijo y su Combo.
When my family relocated to Puerto Rico in the early 1960s, I discovered the world of popular Latin music that was predominant in the island. Artists from all of Latin America and Spain were also popular. Names such as Lucecita Benitez, Olga Guillot, Lissette, Chucho Avellanet, Marco Antonio Muñiz, Raphael, and Felipe Pirela, to name a few, dominated the airwaves, while the English speaking stations poured rock & roll plus the British rock invasion of the 1960s, spearheaded by The Beatles.
By the mid-sixties, rock & roll had lost its roll and everyone just about everywhere wanted to be free, free from government, free from societal restrictions and musically, just plain free. The freedom of jazz improvisational music caught my attention during this time and has never left me since. A new interest in jazz musicians over the jazz vocalists became my preference, with new names leading the list, including Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, John Barry, and Donald Bird. On the Latin music scene, the standouts included Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Mango Santamaría, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, and Nora Morales. In the Caribbean, thanks to the unfortunate Cuban blockade, tropical dance music flourished in Puerto Rico thanks to El Bran Combo, La Sonora Ponceña, Pijuan y su Combo, Johnny "El Bravo" y su Orquesta, and Lito Pena y La Orquesta Panamericana, among others.
By the end of the 1960s, the crossover sounds of Latin Boogaloo, which introduced me to artists such as The Joe Cuba Sextet, Joe Bataan, Pete Rodríguez, and Joey Pastrana, became favorites, as they paved the way for the new sounds of "salsa," from the Fania Records artists such as Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colon, Ray Barretto, and Larry Harlow. The rein of salsa lasted throughout most of the 1970s via the talents of Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe, Larry Harlow and Junior Gonzàlez, Ricardo Ray...