Willie Rosario

El Rey del Ritmo

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Though recorded in 1991, El Rey del Ritmo (The King of Rhythm) is a rootsy salsa recording and a return to the harder, jazzier horn charts of Willie Rosario's best work. With the core of his longstanding band -- Javier Fernández on piano and Jimmy Morales on congas -- and baritone saxophonist Chago Martinez, the musical component is there. The abandonment of electric guitars and other textural elements is a real plus here, as are the lead vocals of Guillo Rivera and Junior Toledo. The charts, written by Eddie Flores, Bobby Valentin, Ray Santos, and Jorge Millet, reflect the tougher edge. The New York salsa craze was long over by 1991 and allowed for Rosario to concentrate on what he did best: the creation of emotionally honest, musically complex, and rhythmically innovative music handed down from the legacy of Tito Puente. This band smokes. Just give a listen to Curet Alonso's "llueve," and the way the chorus kicks up around Toledo. Another standout is Henry Arana's "Mujer Ingrata," with its sprawling punchy trumpets and the rhythmic counterpoint played by Martinez. But it is the call-and-response interplay between Rivera, Toledo, and the chorus that is so infectious. Toledo's simply stellar performance on Bobby Capo's moving ballad "Quien Lo Diria" steals the show, though. This is a fine recording, one worth listening to over and over again. It is an excellent example of Rosario's great gift for communicating the varieties of the classic salsa experience.

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