Timbalero, Arranger, Composer, Producer and Band Director, Tito Rodriguez, Jr. is one of the most important timbaleros of Salsa and Tropical Music as well as being one of the heirs of the mambo.
I had previously listened to, analyzed and shared my impressions about Transición (2017), by Tito Rodríguez, Jr. In conversation with Tito himself, he confirmed that Transición is his fourth album and the first to carry a Spanish-language title. We are doing well, Tito. This album was preceded by:
Eclipse (1994) y
The Big Three Palladium Orchestra live at the Blue Note (2004).
The idea of bringing together the three great orchestras of the Palladium was Machito, Jr.’s, whom I will be approaching soon.
Promise is a promise, so here I am to elaborate a bit on what I left out of the previous report.
Why the title Transition?
For much of his productive life, Tito has held a conventional job so music has been his part-time love. Well, we should clarify what this so-called “part-time” has meant for Tito because even part-time, from 1994 to 1999 his orchestra was performing once a month at the world famous Copacabana in New York City. On the other hand, The Big Three Palladium Orchestra live at the Blue Note secured him a promotional tour – through Brian Theobald of BPR Music – that lasted a whopping eleven years.
Well, now it looks like Tito is getting ready to hit the stages that have been waiting for him so long. So get ready, what is coming is not from friends. I wonder if the title track Volver had something to do with Tito’s dream of surrendering to his first love: music.
Tito has been consistent in following the musical line of his progenitor’s orchestra although he has managed to modernize the baseline, adding his own forceful stamp. That is why the musical line of Tito Rodriguez, Jr.’s big orchestra is more modern without straying from the classical foundation.
Reading several articles, I stumbled upon one by Robin Denselow published in 2010 for the international newspaper The Guardian. My chest swells with Puerto Rican pride when I review the legacy left by the “Mambo Kings”: Machito, Puente and Rodriguez, those 3 bandleaders who transformed the American music scene. The Palladium located on Broadway and West 53rd Street no longer offers mambo, chacha or rumba but the musical legacy of the mambo kings remains more alive than ever. According to Denselow, when that Palladium Orchestra took the stage with a brass section it was Tito Rodriguez, Jr. who first led that historic reunion. According to the British view Rodriguez, Jr. lovingly revived his father’s compositions while showing off his percussion skills.
This was just the hors d’oeuvre for when Larry Harlow arrived to raise the bar even higher. Of course, having the luxury of having the pianist hero of not only the mambo kings but also the Fania All-Stars was no small feat for these virtuous offspring. Perhaps they are the offspring of the most influential trio in Latin music.
Back to Borinquen: In 2009 Tito Rodriguez, Jr. was in Puerto Rico fulfilling one of his musical dreams. With that dream in his suitcase, Tito, Jr. arrived behind his timbal to lead a very large orchestra.
Once on Puerto Rican soil, they joined that dream: Luis Nazario “Güiriche” on conga, Paquito Corselles on bass, Luisito Marín on piano, Pablo “El Indio” Rosario on bongo; Emilio Reales, Darío Morales, Simón Rivera and Edwin González on trumpets; Rafy Ruiz and Al Schnitzler on alto saxophone; Nelson Vega and Wilfredo de la Torre on tenor saxophone plus Angel “Chiqui” Vidal on baritone saxophone.
On vocals, Josué Rosado was backed by José Miranda and Juan Manuel Lebrón on backing vocals.
On that occasion, the orchestra performed in the Chucho Avellanet Show, at the gala of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, at the Yagüez Theater in Mayagüez with the special participation of Chucho Avellanet.
The show that closed the tour in Puerto Rico took place at the Science Park in Bayamón. It is worth mentioning that Al Schnitzler and Emilio Reales were musicians in Tito Rodríguez’s orchestra in the 1960s.
Searching through the archives I think I fell for the performance of El Mulato Rumbero.
Although Tito, Jr. has not insisted on the label of being the son of the great vocalist Tito Rodriguez, it is not possible to escape the good shadow of being the son of a Puerto Rican glory who, almost fifty years after his death, is still a topic of conversation in musical circles.
WedSite: Tito Rodriguez, Jr.