The most progressive arranger and innovator of New York Salsa in the 70s and 80s.
Music often requires characters who are always backstage and support with their talent the work of singers and performers, who are eventually the ones who “come forward” and assume the popularity. Sometimes, though, these anonymous characters shot to fame in order to be able to perform their own work and even become more popular than any fashion singer.
In the case of Pop, this character is named Quincy Jones, who was said to be the arranger for Frank Sinatra and the producer for Michael Jackson. A “nonentity”. In the case of Salsa, these characters have been symbolized by the emulator of Jones, a guy named Louie Ramirez who has done everything with everyone.
An afternoon in 1994, Ramirez was driving his car on the highway that took him to Variety Studios in New York. It was going to be a quick session because he only lacked one track to complete his 20th album as a bandleader. Perhaps this is why he was nervous and full of anxiety. Minutes later, he could not resist the feeling and had to stop the car. He had not finished doing it when a heart attack ended his life.
Introducing Louie Ramirez
Louie Ramirez was a genius. The one to whom all run for advice and solutions to their problems. It did not matter if they were young or old musicians. The fact was that Louie had the answer and visiting him was like rubbing Aladdin’s lamp. That was a characteristic that always accompanied him, from the first recording “Meet Louie Ramirez” in 1963.
He was 20 years old back then and had a good record with regard to composing some pachangas and arranging for the orchestras of Pete and Tito Rodriguez. Commentator Dick Sugar introduced him like this: Ramirez breaks through the image of a bandleader who uses the talents of other composers and becomes a follower of a rhythm. No, Louie Ramirez is a creator in his genre.
Louie Ramirez Ali Baba
That talent did not go unnoticed by the new Czar of Latin music in New York, Jerry Masucci, who hired him as a star of Fania Records and at the same time, as an arranger for the orchestras and ensembles that belonged to the record company. Ramirez was soon wrapped up in work and could only record two albums during the 1960s, “Good news” and “Alí Babá”.
The last album included the hit that allowed him to be a famous artist, El Títere, a true Salsa classic. The song was performed by Rudy Calzado, the third of the soneros Louie had used without finding the right one. It was a ballast that stayed with him as a director during the 1970s, when he used singers such as Pete Bonet, Tito Allen, Jimmy Sabater, “Azuquita” Rodríguez, Adalberto Santiago, and even Rubén Blades.
Louie Ramirez y Sus Amigos
It was precisely Blades that he made an anthological album with, “Louie Ramirez y sus amigos”, which included the song Paula C, with an arrangement of those that deserve to be admired. By then, Ramirez was already considered as the most progressive arranger of Salsa in New York, thanks to the brilliant works done for the Fania All Stars. An excellent work had been the instrumental arrangement for Juan Pachanga, to be performed by Blades, from Canta for a performance by Cheo Feliciano, and of the entire album “Algo nuevo” performed by Tito Rodriguez with Louie’s orchestra.
The peak of Ramírez’s career was in 1980 when Joni Figueras, a representative of the K-Tel International label, hired him to maka arrangements for the ballads Todo se derrumbó and Estar enamorado by Manuel Alejandro. The album, which included these and other songs, was released two years later under the title “Noche caliente” and was recorded by Louie’s orchestra.
Ballad-salsa or romantic salsa was born as a result of a work Ramírez did until his death, making occasional attempts in Latin Jazz, which he loved. That is why he recorded a tribute album to Cal Tjader in which Louie was the director, producer, composer and arranger. Apart from that, he played the timbales and his favorite instrument: the vibraphone.
Louie Ramirez was a genius of arrangements, in a career that included Guantanamera and Isadora for Celia Cruz, El Guiro de Macorina for Johnny Pacheco and El Caminante for Roberto Torres.
The Cesta All-Stars Vol. 1
Further to that, there are his works for La Alegre and the Cesta All-Stars. Regarding this Ramírez’s profile, critic Eleazar López defined it very well.
“It is not easy to arrange for a dance orchestra, especially when it is a group that cultivates the hot tropical genre. Many musicians feel influenced by Jazz and the result of their orchestrations leaves a vacuum in the dancer”.
Others arrange in a simple way, but it is so simple that they repeat and copy themselves, and the result is tired music, without any degree of creativity: music that says nothing, that leaves nothing. Louie Ramirez has found the perfect balance… that’s why he always stays relevant.
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