Carrying the torch forward... I remain highly impressed with Grupo Arcano, whose members are representative of the younger generation committed to the perpetuation of “salsa dura”. After having the opportunity to check out their four-track demo, I wish them well-deserved success in their quest to produce a full-length CD...
Grupo Arcano's Desde El Otro Lado Del East River is an exciting debut album in the field of Salsa music. This talented group of musicians have come up with an eight-track CD that provides a refreshing sound to the foundations of Salsa music. Let's take a look at the music behind this production.
A Refreshing Salsa Dura Experience
Desde El Otro Lado Del East River is first and foremost, a Salsa duraalbum. Throughout all the songs, you can easily taste that unmistakable flavor of the original sound of Salsa that was forged in the 1970s. However, this is the 21st century and Arcano's biggest achievement relies on their ability to deliver a work whose sound is quite refreshing.
In other words, Desde El Otro Lado Del East River provides a refreshing experience to Salsa dura. This album does not try to copy the old good stuff but rather it borrows the essence of the original sound to produce a unique selection of songs that are loyal to both the past and present of Salsa music.
To this regard, the single "Esa Mujer," represents a good commitment between the past and present of Salsa. I was, in fact, surprised to find a song like this here. Enhanced by the romantic singing style of Hector Luis Pagan, "Esa Mujer" encompasses a good cross-over between the beats of hard and romantic Salsa.
Besides "Esa Mujer," Desde El Otro Lado Del East River shines with tracks such as "Lluvia Viene," "Un Tipo Sala'o" and "La Maya," an amazing Son Montuno single. If you are into good Salsa, you are going to like these tracks.
One of the resons why Desde El Otro Lado Del East River offers a refreshing experience is because of its unique musical arrangements. In fact, hardly any song on this album is predictable, something quite rare in today's Salsa.
I have been listening to Salsa throughout my whole life and very often is easy to predict the way a track will undfold. However, Grupo Arcano has adorned every single song with fine arrangements capable of taking the predictable factor away. To illustrate this, I love the way the last segment of "Esa Mujer" is introduced by the simple key of the guiro. Likewise, the middle part of "Un Tipo Sala'o" is dominated by unique brass sessions that seem almost disconnected with the way the melody was built before that point.
On top of all this experimental sound, you are in front of a group of talented musicians who play their instruments in a fantastic way. In addition to this, the members of Arcano come from diverse musical backgrounds that include Jazz, Merengue, Funk, and even Classical music.
'Desde El Otro Lado Del East River' - Bottom Line
If you are into good Salsa, I highly recommend Desde El Otro Lado Del East River. This is definitely a solid debut album that honors the sounds of the past in a refreshing way. If you are into dancing Salsa music, this production will keep your feet moving from the other side of the East River and beyond.
Headed by saxophonist, musical director, and composer, George Velez, Jr., Grupo Arcano celebrates the vivacious and brass-driven grooves of salsa music that comes out of the Brooklyn/Queens vicinity of New York. George Velez, Sr. is the primary vocalist, but vocals are also provided by Anthony Almonte and Hector Luis Pagan. The lively rhythms borrow funk, jazz, soul, merengue, and classical qualities that add a higher level of musical complexity to the mix, while staying rooted in salsa simplicities over the eight tracks.
“Lluvia Viene” opens with a static-driven TV or radio broadcast about a weather forecast for heavy rain, but it cuts out as soon as the driving and punchy trumpets and assorted percussion take over. The horns accompany the vocals of George Velez, Sr. amidst a backdrop of piano. The salsa rhythm is jazzy and authentically-performed with vivacity and passion. The highly-danceable music is very moving and possesses both ear-piercing brass (in a good way) and toe-tapping melodies. Perhaps, the trumpets are a little more involved—that is, apparent— than in other salsa music, but it is very rewarding nonetheless.
“Preguntale” opens with jangly percussion, punchy horns, and a poppy piano melody. The Spanish vocals are as fiery as the percussion set throughout. The piano accents the horns with a high degree of fluidity. The horns are slightly more reduced than the previous track, but the impact is not diminished. Midway through the song, the piano, bass, and percussion combine to form a fresh, Latin sound that provides a solid foundation of style, timbre, and performance. The end result is a four-minute romp through the world of salsa.
“El Travieso Mayor” starts with a salsa bang that dives right into the percussion-driven and horn-driven sounds of Latin America. The trumpet and trombone is more pronounced than other instruments, but George Velez, Sr. adds a rousing vocal set. The four-minute composition contains a whirling mix of percussion and horns that build to a climax of varied sounds. Grupo Arcano adds a level of improvisation near the end of the song, which culminates into a satisfying product of musicianship with all the intricacies salsa has to offer.
“Esa Mujer” opens with scintillating horns and a melodious mix of percussion that contains rasp sounds, congos, and punchy piano melodies. The spirited vocals propel the music into new territories, but the primary musical form is still the same. The blaring horns, sweeping piano melodies, and heavy percussion signify a more mature salsa track than others on the album. However, the music is still steeped in salsa, but with a little funk and jazz thrown in for good measure. The final track, “Rumba En Mi Barrio,” opens with a downbeat, keyboard tune with light percussion and varied vocals before the music brightens up as the driving horns and piano playing takes the limelight. However, the final moments of the track resemble many of the other tracks on the album, which may or may not be a negative.
Grupo Arcano’s latest album, From The Other Side Of The East River, presents a rhythmic and energetic approach to American-produced salsa music. The foundational elements of percussion, piano, vocals, and assorted horns provide a perfect mix of salsa swag and style that is not limited to Latin styles, but jazz, funk, and classical elements, too. The downside with salsa music in any performance is too much similarity in the musical compositions. Thankfully, Grupo Arcano does not suffer from similitude to any great extent, but it is still worth mentioning. Overall, Grupo Arcano presents a satisfying mix of salsa music that is as fiery as a bowl of Habanero salsa.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)
Headed by Saxophonist and Musical Director, George Velez Jr, Grupo Arcano bring us their debut CD, Desde el otro lado del East River.
George Velez Sr. is the main vocalist, ably assisted by Anthony Almonte and Hector Luis Pagan, on this selection of bass driven salsa grooves out of Brooklyn and Queens.
The album opens with Lluvia Viene and its powerful and punchy trumpets kicking things off in style, followed by Preguntale, a slightly faster number that's solid and very danceable, upping the energy levels just under half way through! The album continues solidly from beginning to end, with a consistent sound throughout, and particular highlights being the horn-driven, crescendo-building 'El Travesio Mayor', the laid-back and more mature sounding 'Esa Mujer', and the driving energy and real NY attitude of 'Rumba En Mi Barrio' which closes the CD.
In summary, this is a great release, full of energy and attitude, and one that is likely to be very popular with Dancers. The length of the tracks is also just right, coming in at between 4 and 5 minutes each. A very worthy purchase for fans of the modern NY Sound that wears its 70's influences on its sleeve.