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Cesta All Stars- Salsa Maxima

The Cesta All Stars, a super group of the most talented exciting artists of the Golden Era of salsa, was formed in 196? By Joe Quijano. Originally billed as the Alegre All Stars, they moved with Joe to the Cesta label, which he created in 196? And were then known as the Cesta All Stars. Under the direction of Charlie Palmieri, this group of talented artists came together and, quite simply, jammed.

With a lineup that includes such greats as Charlie Palmieri, Cheo Feliciano, Jimmy Sabater,Kako Rodriguez, Willie Torres, there is the potential for both greatness and disaster. How does one take someone at the top of his game and get him to stand back and let others shine? How do you manage to Al Santiago and Charlie do it like true maestros!

Salsa Maxima stands out, the sheer exuberance of the artist comes through in every note. The joy and excitement of playing with other artists of their caliber is almost palpable. Each artist takes his turn at being the star, then steps back to shine his light on the other players, as they each have their turn in the spotlight. The music is clearly the star of this show, the lyrics are secondary. That is not to say they are unimportant or dispensable; the vocal performances are superb and worth the price of the cd, but the vocalists support the musicians, rather than the reverse.

I enjoy this cd, in part, because the artists are so clearly enjoying themselves. I want to be invited to this party!!

1.No Hace Falta Papel – A descarga mambo(Mambo jam session)

An awesome horn solo is the centerpiece of this raucous jazzy jam.

2. Soneros en Una Cesta-

“yo me siento dichoso….”

This is one of my absolute favorite songs, I can think of no way to improve upon it. The vocalists , Jimmy Sabater, Joe Quijana and Willie Torres, take turns telling us the story of how they got together to play(I like self referential song). The phrasing is particularly interesting as they repeat, stretch and crunch words to make them fit the music. While it helps to have lyrics that make some sense, really there is no reason to say “todo el mundo” 5 times in a row, other than than because it sounds good and you need to buy time to think up the next line. I say this because people often want songs translated and I tend to reply ‘It is untranslatable. I can translate the words, but I probably cannot make it make sense to you. It isn’t meant to make sense any more than the lyrics of Tutti Frutti are meant to make sense”.

It’s a slow sexy jam. The music is laid back, yet intense and the driving vocals add the perfect counterpoint adding needed fire. I like the guiro, it reminds me of the creaking of a rocking chair on a front porch.Its a very subtle touch that, at least for me, is irrestible.

Solos-

Bobby Rodriguez, their “clock”, on the bass.

Luis Ramirez- I only realized last night that this was vibraphone and not piano, proof that I don’t listen to the lyrics or the music as closely as I could. I’ve played this song at least 1000 times in the past 4 years. It is absolutely KILLER.The brightness adds some welcome levity to this track, like the sound of rain on a tin roof or the chirping of coquis against the wind and thunder night during a summer storm. Check the section from 5:24 to 5:43.

By 6:23 it seems as if the song is over and has peaked with the most excellent vibe solo, and if it had peaked that would have been just fine. But there is more.

Chombo? On the sax? I don’t actually know.

The horn screams and wails. It moans, it speaks and ultimately its call becomes too strong to resist. The other instruments answer in turn, gradually joining the fray and coming together an electrifying crescendo, a musical orgy. I feel a sense of relief when it ends. I will point out a few sections I enjoy, some I often miss because once the other instruments return, I become distracted and cant follow him.

7:24-7:32

7:43-7:51 (7:48 in particular)

Things get a little messy here, but I will point out a few more parts I like. I have problems following a particular instrument, so I find myself listening to the vibes when I was trying to follow the sax, for example.

7:12

7:45

8:03

8:12 I was watching the vibes, and missed the horn at 8:15

8:23

Phew.

4. Jala-Jala con Aguardiente

Jala Jala makes me feel happy and festive. There is some seriously fast drumming going on, and the horns aren’t exactly slacking. Though this was done in a studio, I hear it as being outside at a street festival. The drumming can sound messy, but as it progresses the rythms become more distinct and easier to discern. The drumming and horns are definitely the stars of this show.

5. El Rinconcito

A nice change of pace, a slower son montuno jam here. This is all about the percussion and the piano, a great combination of latin and jazzy that really works.

6. La Quinta De Beethoven

“This is the 5th played on the 3, we know its weird, but so are we”. A latin jazzy take on Beethovens 5th. Barry Rogers KILLS on the tres! It is totally unexpected, but it works. There is something hypnotic about this song and I get lost about halfway into it,I find it trance inducing. Check out the part at about 3:30. Then Charlie on the Piano starting at about 5:03. A minute later, Chombo gives us a smoking jazzy sax solo and ,again, he KILLS it.

7. Aguardiente con Jala Jala

Another fun jala-jala. I have to admit, I don’t find anything particularly spectacular about this one. But its good, fun and upbeat and certainly a percussionists playground.

8. Ran Kan Kan

MAMBO! I love mambo!! The horns are all talking, and whatever they are saying works for me. It starts off like a nice mambo and then we get a fairly quiet interlude and a bit of “descarga”. Kako gets busy on the timbales and gets some backing from the horns and the vocalists, but its all about him for a few minutes then Dandy takes over and shows HIS stuff. There’s some handclapping going on, but I am not sure if this was part of the session or something added in editing. I like it, so I don’t mind. The one thing I don’t like about this song is that it sort of peters out as if they couldn’t figure out exactly how to end it properly.

9. Delirio

Well, what a surprise. A bolero. And in English?! After the mayhem we have experienced so far, it is almost impossible to believe this beautiful passionate, yet restrained bolero was created by the same crew of musicians. The piano- lovely, the horns- beautiful, the percussion- impeccable. Willie Torres’ voice is velvety and yearning, with an unexpected sweetness. Cheo, who drops his verses in Spanish;is a wonder! Though I prefer him as a sonero, his skills as a bolerista are not to be dismissed.

10. Recuerdos de Baranquilla

There are a few things I cannot resist- cowbells and the “caballito” rhythm. I know, many of us have grown weary of it, but I never do. I like the vocals, can’t get much more nasal than that! I’ll mention a few nice sections- 2:50, though you need to wait for it to build to appreciate it fully.4:11 and 4:54.

This is just an awesome song, I can’t not move to it when I hear it.

The lineup-

Musical Director – Charlie Palmieri.

Cheo Feliciano, Dioris Valladares, Jimmy Sabater – Soneas

Changuito Montalvo, Joe Quijano, Víctor Velásquez, Willie Torres , Yayo El Indio- Coro

Barry Rogers- Tres

Joe Wohletz -Trombones

Víctor Paz, Pedro “Puchi” Boulong , Roy Roman- Trumpets

José “Chombo” Silva Tenor Sax

, Mario Rivera – Bariton Sax

Charlie Palmieri- Piano y Organ

Charlie Fox, Piano

Bobby Rodríguez, Bass;

Kako, Orlando marin, Timbales

Louie Ramírez Vibráfono y Percusión;

Johnny “Dandy” Rodríguez, Congas y bongos;

Willie Rosario, Timbales y bongos;

Frankie Malabe, Conga

Pedro Perdomo Conga y Percusión;

Producers-Al Santiago, Joe Quijano

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