Born in 1943, Oscar D’ León is one of the references when it comes to salsa music. In his beginnings, and influenced mainly by Benny Moré and by the Cuban sound that since he was a child was already part of his life because of the records his father listened to all day long; Oscar was an amateur singer while he earned his living working in his cab and in the General Motors factory in Caracas.
In 1973 he created with trombonist Cesar Monge his first band, La Dimensión Latina, where Oscar started singing and playing bass, and had a big hit: “Pensando En Ti”. In their first album the songs were not enough, so they had to record a shared album with El Clan de Victor Mendoza.
In 1976 he formed Salsa Mayor and then settled down with his big band Oscar D’ León y su Orquesta. Since then Oscar has not stopped performing all over the world, improvising on any line of any melody, and recording many of the best albums in the history of salsa.
Great singer, improviser of inspiration, stage beast, perfectionist: Venezuela’s greatest star combines musical talent and human qualities unanimously celebrated: the substance with which the greats are born.
It was at the wheel of his cab, or at the General Motors factory in Caracas, who employed him until 1967, or perhaps in the popular Antimano neighborhood of Caracas, where he saw the day for the first time on July 11, 1943, that Oscar Emilio León Dionisia, alias El Diablo de la Salsa, alias El León, launched his first songs, and sharpened his vocal cords.
Coming from a modest background, he is also a self-taught musician who starts on other strings, those of the double bass: watching the musicians play and playing over the records.
Still today, Oscar is faithful to him and his double bass is never far from him when he is on stage. He sometimes takes over a bar, a solo, a few dance steps or a turn on the dance floor, as if this old accomplice were a source of resources for him.
It is possible that the Latin Dimension project was born, founded in 1972 by Oscar D’Leon, percussionist Wladimir Lozano, percussionist José Rodríguez and trombonist Cesar “Albóndiga” Monge, where the arrangements will make the ensemble thunder.
The group sounds like a New York salsa, its impact is strong and Dimensión Latina quickly makes a name for itself in the clubs of Caracas. The success is so fast that there are only a few numbers left to record and the group has to share their first album with Victor Mendoza. It is also the time of the first hit number, Pensando en ti.
But it is in 1977 that Oscar D’ León truly emancipates himself and founds La Salsa Mayor: a group cut to his measurements, with which he records in 1977 his first real album.
His singing, influenced by the greatest Cuban soneros (and especially by Benny Moré, great among the greats) is supported by a brass section that evokes the good old New York salsa (dominated by Fania) and Puerto Rican (Gran Combo); a big gulp of swing learned from listening to the great Cuban orchestras of the 50s: now Oscar D’Leon’s style is forged and his talent is mature and preceded by his album El más grande (which covers such pearls as Mi bajo y yo, El baile del suavecito, Bravo de verdad), the Leon feels ready to challenge New York in 1978… who knows how to appreciate his courage.
The continuation of his story is a flawless career and Oscar D’ León will be rewarded with the recognition of all. Cuba makes him triumph when he visits the island in 1986, the gold discs are chained one after the other and the honors are lined up… until that distinction of the city of New York, who dedicates him a day, March 15, 1998!
And on stage, the Lion roars even louder. It is there that his qualities of improviser find the measure and take all the forces, for concerts of high rank where the generosity and the energy deplored by Oscar D’Leon bring immediately the adhesion of the public.
Today Oscar appears on a good fifty albums and his name is affixed next to the greatest: Celia Cruz, Tito Puente… USA, Mexico, Latin America, Japan, Europe… the former General Motors worker conquered the world.