Salsa Norteña a new CD by Rick Davies

 The new CD Salsa Norteña includes eight original songs by Rick Davies. Four of the pieces (1, 3, 5, 7) are straight-ahead salsa dura vocal songs featuring the lead vocals of Papo Ross. These selections were recorded in Montreal. The other four pieces (2, 4, 6, 8) are instrumental Latin jazz tunes that were recorded in Vermont and feature guest artist Ray Vega (another North Country transplant from NYC) on Trumpet along side veteran musicians from both sides of the U.S./Canadian.

Baile de amor is a salsa love song with lead vocals by Papo Ross. The song features a very danceable groove described by one Montreal salsa D.J. as being “evocative of Papo Lucca and Sonora Poncena." Also featured on the song are solos by conguero Neville “Pichi’ Ainsley and leader Rick Davies on trombone both of which are backed by swinging vocal coros and brass section moñas.

The name of the Latin jazz song Campamento de rumba refers to the yearly summer Latin jazz camp at the Flynn Center in Burlington, Vermont where Davies and his group are artists-in-residence every July (featuring guest artists like Ray Vega and Arturo O’Farrill). Based on a rumba clave, the two-part song contains solos by Davies, trumpeter Ray Vega, Alex Stewart on tenor sax, and pianist Tom Cleary.

El hombre de Panama is a tribute to the great Panamanian salsa singer Ruben Blades. With lyrics by Ecuadorian poet Fernando Iturburu, the song pays homage to the musician/actor/activist iconoclast who once ran for the presidency of Panama. There are short horn solos including two by the Cuban trumpeter Eduardo Sanchez brimming with sabor. Singer Papo Ross sings a number of soneos that refer to Blades and his famous songs. Kuki Carbucia adds to the swing with a tasty piano solo. After a horn-fueled mambo section, Davies performs a trombone solo.

A beautiful Flugelhorn solo by Ray Vega is a highlight of the 6/8 Bembè Swing, which is a song inspired by the traditional Cuban bembè. Ainsley’s cajon and Maldonado’s bells highlight the rich percussion underpinning. In addition to Vega’s offering, Stewart, Cleary, and Davies also supply solos.

A story of life and death in the barrio is the basis for Iturburu’s lyrics in Requiem por un amigo. Papo Ross adds a strong emotional sensation to the song with his edgy vocals. A solo by Davies sets up the final vocal section where Ross increases the emotional level with his soneos including some that are rap-like.

Vega para ti (Vega for you) was written by Davies to commemorate the move of his old colleague and friend Ray Vega to Vermont a few years back. The song is fast paced, danceable Latin jazz featuring solos by Vega, Stewart, Davies, Cleary, and drummer Jonathan Maldonado.

The bolero Lady K was originally recorded as an instrumental on the Rick Davies’ CD Salsa Strut. Written by Davies in dedication to his wife Karen, lyrics were added by Iturburu and Ross in this romantic vocal remake.

Son, Son,Son is a quirky sextet tune featuring John Rivers on bass and a conga solo by Neville “Pichi” Ainsley, as well as solos by Davies, Stewart, and Cleary. The song’s title went through a myriad of changes before finally becoming a paean to Benny Goodman’s classic “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

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