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Pop Music Review

Oscar D'Leon Leads His Band to New Heights

May 08, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER

Think of Venezuelan singer Oscar D'Leon as a hyperactive, slightly maniacal Latin deejay, but with a salsa orchestra instead of two turntables.

The most formidable live performer in the tropical genre, D'Leon has established a concert routine that never ceases to amaze, no matter how many times you experience it. On Saturday at Hollywood Park Casino, his band took its trademark synchronicity to new heights of dizzying perfection.

The singer is known for improvising his set list. While he is finishing up a tune, he signals the players to let them know which one is coming next. In a matter of seconds, the entire group adjusts and segues into the new number flawlessly. And the singer likes to extend this roller-coaster of a party jam for hours.

But D'Leon's salsa fest is more than a display of technique. While swaying his hips to the many women who climbed onstage to offer a suggestive dance or two, he showed his genuine love for the staples of Afro-Cuban tradition, alternating between vintage cha-cha-chas ("El Bodeguero," "Calculadora") and muscular sones (the Celia Cruz classic "Melao de Can~a"). His flavorful new versions often surpassed the originals in both energy and soul.

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