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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

WAYNE GORBEA & SALSA PICANTE

By PATRICIA CHAO
Published April 7, 2006

Fiesta En El Bronx
Shanachie

There’s a reason why the floor in any big-city Latin club fills when Wayne Gorbea and Salsa Picante are in the house—that trademark Bronx street sound is irresistible to dancers. Brassy, bouncy, rambunctious, light-hearted, with a spectacularly tight percussion session and Gorbea’s distinctive lyrical jazzy piano, this group is both tasty and user-friendly, a neighborhood band that made the big time but kept an intimate, small-club sound. And no band anywhere has a brass section with more personality. Fiesta en el Bronx opens big with “Sube Esa Cuesta,” a snappy ultra-syncopated party cut, followed by a riveting cover of Gran Combo’s “Clavo Y Martillo” featuring Frankie Otero’s tough and tender vocals and blissed-out trombones. This swingy CD demonstrates more Cuban flavor than Gorbea’s previous offerings—there are flashes of sweet tipico trumpet and vocal call-and-response among band members, as well as numerous homages to fellow salseros. The closing track, “Sabor, Sabor” (of Fania All-Stars fame), may read a little over-the-top schmaltz-wise, but ends in a series of musical quotes that will make salsa aficionados chuckle.