(Translated from Spanish by Luis Tamargo)
(Images courtesy of Jossie Photo Studio--787-799-7730)
The musical phenomenon known as salsa is divided by its followers in a couple of historical chapters--"Salsa Vieja" (old salsa) and "Salsa Nueva" (new salsa). The first chapter represents the golden epoch of the great New York-based masters who initiated this movement in the 1960s and 1970s, when each band possessed its own peculiar sound. Those "salsa dura" (hard salsa) years signified a glorious phase for the dancers. The second chapter, on the other hand, represents the era of "salsa romantica" (romantic salsa), characterized by a homogeneous sound largely designed for its consumption by feminine portion of the targeted market.
The salsa recordings made nowadays could be identified, according to their own characteristics, as either "salsa vieja" or "salsa nueva." Some musicians tend to "recycle" yesterday's tunes and arrangements to try to please the "classic salsa" followers, while others subscribe to the so-called "romantic salsa" style and encounter great difficulties in their attempt to sell such product to today's youth, considering that they are merely offering "mas de lo mismo" (more of the same) within the context of a genre corroded and worn out by the passage of time.
The current challenge is to elaborate a style capable of evoking the golden age of salsa, without merely relying on "recycling" or taking any other deceiving shortcuts, in order to create an aggressive sound that could equally satisfy the salsa dancers from any generation.
This combination of new and old elements is present in the bandleading debut of trumpeter Luis Gonzalez--Tributo a un Gigante (Tribute to a Giant).
Said recording's qualitative level motivated me to gather more information about this Puerto Rican musician, who was born in Arecibo on March 15, 1954, but was raised in Milwaukee (Wisconsin), where he acquired his musical education. During his childhood, Gonzalez recalls that he was equally exposed at home to the recordings made by Latin guitar trios (Los Panchos, Los Condes) and by the Nueva York-based big bands led by Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez.
The following interview with Gonzalez was conducted on July 10, 2010, at "Vieras Discos", the famous record shop in Santurce ... Elmer Gonzalez: Tell us about some of your experiences as a musician ... Luis Gonzalez: I've been involved in the music scene for 43 years. I started out at a very young age, playing trumpet with Milwaukee's Orquesta Juvenil, back in 1968. In Puerto Rico, I worked with Roberto Roena's Orchestra since 1973, as well as with Arecibo's Concepto Latino. In Nueva York, I played with Conjunto Clasico, Tito Nieves, and Luis "Perico" Ortiz (during the first half of the 1980s), as well as with Ray Barretto's band (with whom I traveled to Europe for the first time). Later on, back...