Ortiz features Tony Vega, Milly Quezada, Johnny Rivera, Gerardo Rivas, Henry Santiago, Yturvides Vílchez, Néstor Torres, Charlie Sepúlveda and Antonio Luis Orta.
The new production of the Puerto Rican trumpeter Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Sigo entre amigos comes to us with the same energy as always. We trust this is a foretaste of what is to come because as the genius of musical production, Julio Gunda Merced, says: “We must continue to create”.
Sigo entre amigos begins by modernizing what would otherwise keep us in the nostalgia of the unforgettable production, Entre amigos. The also masterful 1983 production featured Rafael Ithier, Rubén Blades, and Roberto Lugo, as well as the same Conjunto Quisqueya that for years dominated the danceable musical genre known as merengue. In this new arrival, Sigo entre amigos, “Perico” continues with his trumpet and the rumba is back to form. In this renewed Sigo entre amigos, cut that gives title to this impeccable production, we find the voices of: Tony Vega, Milly Quezada, Johnny Rivera, and Gerardo Rivas. The legendary backing vocalist Henry Santiago also stands out, with the vocal power to which we are accustomed.
Beginning in the third minute of what has become the promotional cut, the unmistakable trumpet of the usual Luis “Perico” Ortiz stars in the notes of the arrangement until he joins in calm and saucy harmony the melodic wind collective formed by Yturvides Vilchez, Antonio Luis Orta, Jesus Rafael “Rafy” Torres, Eliut Cintrón, Randy Román, Miguel Rivera and Danny Fuentes in a masterful closing.
The second cut of this production, De mi para ti, features the crystalline voice of Johnny Rivera. The song is a composition and arrangement by “Perico”.
The chorus that says: “Mi tributo es para ti, gracias al salón de baile” (My tribute is for you, thanks to the dance hall) enters in a tune that my ear associates to the style that stands out in the Orquesta Puertorriqueña del maestro Don Perignon. I’m not saying that’s the way it is, I just think that’s what my ear appreciates. I love it, by the way.
Johnny’s soneos bring nostalgia to the affair without abandoning the innovative touch of the arrangement. This dichotomy of keeping the foundation constantly evolving has been very well achieved, highlighting New York as “the supreme soul of the art”. Somewhat later in the song, the touting style that Johnny adds to “si tú quieres que yo cante, canto; y si tú quieres que yo baile, bailo” shows the malleability and mastery with which “Perico” manages to weave the classic with avant-garde expertise. Bravo!
After Johnny’s characteristic war cry in the fourth minute of the song, I recommend listening to what follows the “¡Vayaaa!” anticipating the forcefulness of Gadwin Vargas’ tumbadora. That, for the sake of highlighting my favorite special effect.
How can I say no, if it is a song inspired by the affection and respect that this avant-garde school obviously expresses for women. It is about a gentleman who “sees lights” for a lady who approaches him cautiously and without haste. Finally, the gentleman succeeds in making the lady fall in love and confesses to her that the wait was worth it, even though at first he did not even dare to ask her for a kiss. In short, this composition by “Perico” himself is far from the lyrics that some fire-eating feminists condemned as misogynistic, in that past that this team of artists led by “Perico” were never part of. In a way, this song repairs the damage caused by others.
In the vocal part, it distinguishes the duet between Gerardo Rivas, guest of this production, and “Perico” himself, who also interprets through the trumpet.
Musically, the arrangement of this song is easy to listen to, although I imagine that the arranger processed all the complication to make it simple for our inexperienced ears. The rhythmic changes within the salsa sound of this song have interesting transitions, the kind that make the dancer get active even if his dancing shoes are not well tied.
In the vocal part of Detente, the duet between Tony Vega, guest of this production, and “Perico” shines. Detente lightens the speed compared to the rest of the songs in the production, so the dancer must be in good shape before trying to dance to it. This fact shows us the versatility in the interpretative ability of Tony Vega whom we are used to hearing singing romantic and slower songs. It is, without a doubt, refreshing to see how the performer’s horizons can be expanded by way of these artistic combinations of seemingly simple variations. Of course, a pioneer of these effects is “Perico” and this invention that I attribute to “Perico” is due to him having the necessary experience to achieve exceptional results with the usual performers. At the 2 minutes and a half mark, the correspondence between the bass played by Jorge Rivera and the piano played by Carlos García; they reach a rhythmic transition, which makes this arrangement a remarkable one within the list of songs that compile this production. Almost entering the fourth minute, we reach the social message that the song delivers to the listener as a chorus: “Persigue lo bueno…”. The chorus and the pregones are framed within the tastiness of a trombone full of positivism. The fifth minute gives way to the conversation between the trumpet of “Perico” and the voice of Tony Vega, affirming a message of love and truth.
Days after listening to the track, I can still hear Henry Santiago’s voice echoing, “chase the good…”
The intro of the track Solo tuya seré features “Perico’s” trumpet playing what appears to be a fragment of the Puerto Rican national anthem. “Perico” demonstrates masterful mastery in the harmony of the aforementioned notes conjugating them with the vocal entrance of Milly Quezada. The song’s lyrics are sweet and romantic with lots of melody and rhyme. However, this does not limit the arrangement to a simple one. On the contrary, it is one of those arrangements that conquers by its complexity and fluidity.
Before reaching the 2 minute mark, the leather beats come in, anticipating Milly’s proclamation, confirming in multiple ways the chorus that says: “solo tuyo siempre yo seré” (only yours I will always be). The mambo goes on, while Milly continues to splash the feeling summarized in the confession she makes while singing in her characteristic color: “eres mi mejor canción, eres tú mi melodía” (you are my best song, you are my melody). By 3:33, the arrangement returns to the undisputed sound of “Perico”. This composition, also by “Perico” pays homage to patient love, good love that swears: “te amaré toda la vida” (I will love you all my life). As you can see, it is possible to coordinate romance with a musical arrangement that is at once melodic, danceable and heavy. Now, the question I have to ask myself is: Did “Perico”‘s return to his homeland after living in New York for about two decades inspire his pen? Is that the reason for the intro with the overlapping resemblance to the national anthem? That is the question that leads me to: “Eres tú lo que soñé, eras tú mi fantasía” (You are what I dreamed of, you were my fantasy).
On Señores que se sepa, Henry Santiago’s unmistakable voice stands out again in the coros, backing up “Perico’s” vocal performance. Shortly after 2:30 minutes, the trumpet leads the melodic development of the winds. Well into the third minute, the association of bass and piano precede Jorge David Marcano’s timbal until the trombone and tumbadora begin to dominate by the fourth minute. In the fifth minute, a trumpet-led mozambique takes over. When the mozambique goes down, the piano seems to embrace the trumpet. As can be seen, the development of the theme is one with modern overtones of undeniable Afro-descendence, without departing from the classic fundamental sound.
On Tres grandes amigos, Henry Santiago sings with his usual strength. The melody benefits from a sound that I imagine was inspired by Puente, Rodríguez and Machito, since the saxophones stand out in that typical playfulness of the three Palladium greats. It would seem that the composition and arrangement -both by “Perico”- are in tune with the upcoming reunion of those whom I affectionately call “Los herederos del Mambo” (The heirs of the Mambo). I associate it, since on March 5, 2022 begins the reunion tour of Tito Rodriguez, Jr., Mario Grillo (Machito, Jr.) and Tito Puente, Jr. in the concert: The Big 3 Palladium Orchestra. The reunion will be held at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in New York, under the concept called “The Big 3”; this time titled Palladium in the New Millennium. On the other hand, on June 19, 2022, Tito Rodríguez, Jr. will be at the Centro de Bellas Artes de Puerto Rico performing as a tribute to “El Inolvidable”: his father, Tito Rodríguez.
Without wanting to compete with the theme performed live with the three timbaleros heirs of the Mambo: Tito Rodriguez, Jr., Mario Grillo (Machito, Jr.) and Tito Puente, Jr. backing the voices of Gilberto Santa Rosa, Cheo Feliciano, Henry Santiago and Osvaldo Román, I invite us to take a closer look at the presentation I am referring to, within the 6th Jazz Festival in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The performance of this song closed the aforementioned festival and is on YouTube for the delight of those who could not make it there. Click on the link, https://youtu.be/4jZLEnpaRCo you won’t regret it. It gave me a more complete perspective of the song and its interpretation. The arrangement of the song performed that night in Carolina is by Luis “Perico” Ortiz himself. Highlights of the August 2010 performance included: Carolina Mayor José Carlos Aponte Dalmau, Mario Grillo, Tito Rodríguez, Jr., Tito Puente, Jr. and Luis “Perico” Ortiz. On the vocal front, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Cheo Feliciano, Henry Santiago and Osvaldo Román stood out. Of course, I can’t leave out Sammy Velez on baritone saxophone.
It is true that: “We are fortunate to have had three great teachers, three great friends…” and it is also true that Henry Santiago ate it. What a hurricane, that voice that sweeps! Now what we have left is the appetite to enjoy this year’s concerts. It’s coming, we are waiting for it.
In Yturvides & Perico, the characteristic speed of the other songs contained in the production is changed and the tempo of classic Jazz with the Latin touch that characterizes the master Luis “Perico” Ortiz stands out. At minute 3:30, the arrangement is skipped for approximately thirty seconds to return to a soft minute of the undisputed Soñando con Puerto Rico. The slow tempo is skipped again until the end of the song. This arrangement is for connoisseurs only. You know, those who know, know, and those who don’t, learn. The last minute is pure trumpet accompanied by an orchestra that does not get in the way. The percussion is complementary and sends the children to school.
As promised on the compact disc’s laminated cover, this song is a fusion of Osvaldo Farrés’ Tres palabras and Bobby Capó’s Soñando con Puerto Rico in a masterful arrangement by “Perico” that accommodates an exceptional performance by Yturvides Vílchez. Simply exceptional.
In the song Warming Up, which closes this production, stand out: Charlie Sepúlveda, Néstor Torres and Antonio Luis Orta. The instrumental segment sounds like a big band, as it is. The piano dominates and seems to direct the saxophones from the first minute, besides conversing in constant playfulness with the bongo played by Richard Carrasco. The trumpets have a leading role entering and leaving in orderly shifts with the coros. Distinguished among the coros is one of my favorite voices; not only for his vocal power but also because he can subtly balance that power with his unequaled melodic command. That’s Henry Santiago, but that’s my preference.
Anyway, I love this production. If you don’t have it, get it. If you do, enjoy it.
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