Veteran bandleader Isidro Infante will lead an all-star lineup at Los Grandes Maestros de La Salsa, a salsa concert at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx on Saturday.
Isidro Infante has pretty much seen it all in salsa.
That makes the veteran bandleader the perfect person to bring together Los Grandes Maestros de La Salsa — an all-star salsa extravaganza at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx Saturday.
“I remember the days of the Palladium with Machito, Tito Puente, then the complete revolution with young singers like Willie Colon, Ray Barretto — a lot of orchestras,” Infante said.
“The leaders of the bands used to be musicians. In the late ’70s to ’80s, the singers started to be the leaders.”
Infante is definitely a musician — a highly acclaimed producer, arranger, composer and pianist with 47 Grammy nominations (and seven wins) who will lead an orchestra made up of the city’s best Puerto Rican musicians. They’ll back up an array of star singers including:
* Paquito Guzman, the great salsa romantica singer who has delivered more than 20 albums as a solo artist. Guzman broke out on his own in 1977 after nearly two decades with groups including the Caribbean pachanga band Joint Cachana (with leader Joe Quijano and trumpeter Bobby Valentin).
* Ray de la Paz, a product of the Bronx who was a mainstay in Barretto’s 1970s bands before becoming a leading proponent of the salsa romantica style. He’s now lead vocalist with the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
* Luisito Carrion, a top Puerto Rican sonero who sang on 1980s classics with the Bobby Valentin Orchestra and with Sonora Poncena in the 1990s before going solo.
* Michael Stuart, a young New York City vocalist who started out under his uncle, salsa bandleader Isreal “Timbalero” Stuart, before striking out in the late 1990s with a string of hit singles on the Tropical/Salsa chart.
* Moncho Rivera, part of a new generation of soneras who blend salsa with dance club beats. A native Puerto Rican, Rivera’s first albums were dedicated to preserving the legacy of his legendary uncle, composer and singer Ismael (Maelo) Rivera, whose birthday is a national holiday in Puerto Rico.
* Special guest Diva Miki Vimari, best known for the tango boleros “Volver” and “Cuesta Abajo,” who spent years with the New York City orchestra of Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz.
Infante played a big part in salsa’s evolution by working with Louie Ramirez and Ray de la Paz on the breakthrough “Noche Caliente” album, which got the salsa romantica movement moving in 1980.
Part of what motivates him today is keeping salsa vibrant in a musical landscape that has locked the genre out of the recording studio, even though its performers are popular around the world.
“Salsa more or less has been static, because there are no labels with the passion these guys once had,” Infante said.
“I’ve been working and traveling with many artists, doing lots of concerts outside the U.S. All the singers and orchestras are traveling constantly. The only thing we need is the creation of new talent.”
Los Grandes Maestros de la Salsa, at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West. June 6, 8 p.m. Tickets $ 50-$ 65. For information: (718) 960-8833 or lehmancenter.org.
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