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Concerts from the Library of Congress: Pick of the Week

Week of October 9, 2020

This edition of the Pick of the Week celebrates salsa music, born in "El Barrio" of New York City in the 1960s. Dominican musician, co-owner and artistic director of Fania Records Label, Johnny Pacheco revolutionized Latin music by blending Latin rhythms, including the Puerto Rican plena and Cuban son, with American jazz, blues, and rock creating what we now know as salsa music. Fania Records was a music platform with the best Latin talent in New York City called The Fania All-Stars, including Willy Colon, Héctor Lavoe, Ismael Miranda, Cheo Feliciano, Celia Cruz, among others. Fania catapulted salsa music into a world musical phenomenal. In the 70s, the Cuban singer Celia Cruz recorded her first studio album for the Fania label, Celia and Johnny, that produced the hit Quimbara. Cruz's work with Fania quickly earned her the title Queen of Salsa. Cruz's famous catchphrase "Azúcar" soon became a synonym for rhythm and joy, not just in New York City but in the world. We hope you enjoy it. 

Pick of the Week - October 9, 2020: Hispanic Heritage Month

"Celia & Johnny" (album). Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco. 1974 (2013 National Recording Registry)

"Celia & Johnny" lp cover; Image Credit: Vaya. Library of COngress National Recording Registry.

Cuba's Celia Cruz was a dominant artist in the Afro-Cuban scene of the 1950s as a member of the great Sonora Matancera band. She came to America in 1962 and was initially successful, but, by the early 1970s, Latin styles nurtured in the US had become dominant, and her career entered a slump. For this mid-'70s collaboration, Cruz and Pacheco performed with a small instrumental ensemble rather than a big band. The ensemble included pianist Papo Lucca, tres player Charlie Martinez, and several percussionists, including Pacheco. This proved to be the perfect setting for Cruz to reach a newer and younger audience while simultaneously remaining true to her roots. And she responded with some of the most inspired singing of her career, especially in "Celia & Johnny's" many improvised passages. The album's opening rumba, "Quimbara," was a huge dance floor hit, and the public soon acclaimed Cruz as the Queen of Salsa.

"Azucar Pa' Ti" (album). Eddie Palmieri. 1965. (2009 National Recording Registry)

Image Caption: Eddie Palmieri ("Azucar Pa Ti" album cover); Image Credit: Fania Records. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

This album pointed the way for Latin music in the United States in the 1960s and beyond. It was the result of Palmieri's conscious effort to capture the exciting sound he and his eight-piece La Perfecta band were then serving up to New York nightclub audiences. Though steeped in the earlier Afro-Cuban styles that he loved, Palmieri's band represented several Latin music traditions. It was particularly distinguished by the contributions of the hard-charging, Bronx-born trombonist Barry Rogers.

Jorge Borges reads from Poemas, 1923-1958 (recording date: 1958)

A selection from the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (Library of Congress)

From Poemas, 1923-1958: Un soldado de Urbina (min. 00:01); El tango (min. 00:53); Una llave en Salónica (min. 04:30); Límites (min. 05:21); El general Quiroga va en coche al muere (min. 7:51); Fundación mitológica de Buenos Aires (min. 9:52); Baltazar Gracián (min. 12:23); El Golem (min. 14:47); Poema conjetural (min. 19:01); Página para recordar al Coronel Suárez, vencedor en Junín (min. 21:43); Una brújula (min. 24:13); La noche cíclica (min. 25:05); Manuscrito hallado en un libro de Joseph Conrad (min. 27:32); Un sajón (A.D. 449) (min. 30:37); Un patío (min. 33:07); Remordimiento por cualquier defunción (min. 33:42); Llaneza (min. 34:35); Mateo XXV, 30 (min. 35:30).