Willie Colón

La Gran Fuga

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Already one of the most feared young talents on the salsa scene, Willie Colón and his partner in crime Héctor Lavoe showcased not only confidence but a surprising flexibility and independence on 1970s La Gran Fuga (The Big Break). Case in point was the first song, "Ghana'e," based on an African children's song and given a vocal reading (by both Lavoe and the band chorus) that invoked a sense of joy and wonder quite at odds with the cutthroat world of New York salsa. Throughout the album, Colón's septet was tight as usual (they had freed themselves completely from their Latin soul and novelty past) but they performed songs at many different paces and left plenty of space in their sound -- yet still never sacrificed the power of Colón and Willie Campbell's dual-trombone lineup. The son montuno "Pa' Colombia" or the powerful "Barrunto" were the clearest hits to those who were already Colón fans, but the rest of the material stretched Colón's résumé, including the melancholy "No Cambiaré," an affectionate look at the power of grandmothers (and mothers) in "Abuelita," and salutes to Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico as well as the Estados Unidos.

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