b. 3 July 1937, Ponce, Puerto Rico. This influential salsa singer was only 15 days old when his family moved to New York City. While attending high school he organized a band with some friends, playing bongos. After graduating, he gigged in clubs in the Bronx. Eddie Palmieri heard Quintana at an audition with Orlando Marín. He was so impressed with his singing style that when he formed his band in 1961, he invited Quintana to be lead vocalist. Quintana performed with Palmieri between 1961 and 1973 and returned in 1981 to sing two tracks on Eddie Palmieri. Quintana also co-wrote a number of Palmieri’s hit songs.
Quintana won 1966’s trophy for the most popular Latin singer of the year, which was presented to him at New York’s Palladium. He made his solo recording debut on United Artists Records in 1968 with Punto Y Aparte. This album included ‘La Oportunidad’, arranged by pianist Javier Vázquez. Quintana’s solo career began in earnest when he signed to Vaya Records, where he issued five albums between 1974 and 1983. The first, Ismael Quintana, included his hit composition ‘Mi Debilidad’, which featured a fine piano solo by Mark ‘Markolino’ Dimond. Louie Ramírez contributed arrangements to Ismael Quintana and the 1976 follow-up, Lo Que Estoy Viviendo, and was the recording director on 1977’s Amor, Vida Y Sentimiento/Love, Life And Feelings. In 1979, Quintana returned the compliment by singing lead vocals on a track on Ramírez’ Salsa Progresiva. Quintana’s 1979 collaboration with Ricardo Marrero and the Group, entitled Jessica (after his recently born daughter), proved to be a perfect combination. The album contained the outstanding ‘No Se Compara’; Marrero’s superb arrangement of this Johnny Ortiz composition was a potent fusion of salsa and jazz mix.
Ismael became a member of the Fania All Stars in 1975 and recorded with them up to 1984. He toured with them in Africa, Japan, France, Central and South America, the USA and the UK (where he made his only appearance in 1976) and appeared in the film Salsa (1976). He performed ‘Mi Debilidad’ with Fania All Stars on 1975’s Live At Yankee Stadium Vol. 2. Quintana also appeared on Tito Puente’s first two tribute albums to Beny Moré, released in 1978 and 1979. He also sessioned extensively as a coro (chorus) singer and percussionist (maracas and güiro) with many New York-based Latin artists and bands. In 1983, Quintana and Papo Lucca, who had played piano and contributed arrangements to the former’s Vaya releases, teamed up to record Mucho Talento, which contained an excellent cover version of Adalberto Alvarez’s composition ‘Vamos, Hablame Ahora’. Lamentably, after the Fania All Stars’ 1984 album, Lo Que Pide La Gente, he faded from the scene. In 1991, Quintana reunited with Eddie Palmieri at New York’s Club Broadway for a dance to pay tribute to the singer. Also on the bill were Johnny Pacheco, José Alberto and Tito Nieves.