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Pop Music Review

Puerto Rican Acts Serve It Up at Salsa and Latin Jazz Festival

October 09, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When flutist Barbarito Torres and his traditional son ensemble began their performance Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl's annual Salsa and Latin Jazz Festival, the infectious chorus of their first song stated that "la musica Cubana no tiene rival"--Cuban music has no rival.

Actually, it does.

In fact, the most electrifying moments of the slightly scattered evening belonged to Puerto Rico.

At a moment when the spotlight in tropical music is fixed on everything Cuban, the high-voltage performances by veteran group El Gran Combo and keyboardist Eddie Palmieri were particularly gratifying, an important reminder that another Caribbean island is also responsible for some of the spiciest salsa around.

Not that there was anything wrong with the Cuban stuff, mind you. Torres' brisk program through both solo material ("Sarandonga") and Buena Vista Social Club standards ("El Cuarto de Tula") was pungent and exhilarating.

He was followed by another Buena Vista member, Omara Portuondo, whose exquisite vocal phrasing has found a perfect match in an opulent big band led by trombonist Jesus "Aguaje" Ramos.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 10, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Pop music review--Lutist Barbarito Torres was mistakenly described as a flutist in a review of the Hollywood Bowl's Salsa and Latin Jazz Festival in Monday's Calendar.

Since its inception seven years ago, the festival has become known for raucous, hip-swaying, marathon sessions, and El Gran Combo was just what the doctor ordered.

There's something reassuring about the split-time precision of this venerable orchestra, its effortless swing and dogged refusal to sacrifice flavor in favor of new trends in Latin music.

Palmieri, on the other hand, is anything but conservative.

The pianist ended the concert spotlighting his new album "Masterpiece," a collaboration with timbalero Tito Puente, who died just after its completion. When his keyboard didn't respond, the maestro jumped at a set of timbales and performed a solo both blistering and surprising.

Palmieri played only one solo in his brief set. If anything, this left you pining for another serving of his overpowering salsa stew.

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