Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Intersection: Fania

The Intersection is an ongoing feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists who have blended jazz, world and electronica in new and highly creative ways.

Fania Records 1964 - 1980: The Original Sound Of Latin New York (Strut Records; 2011)
Various Artists

On this blistering hot afternoon in New York City what better music to be spinning than Fania. In the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in the highly influential Latin rhythms of Fania Records. A plethora of releases have been reissued and unreleased recordings bubbled to the surface. All these can be extremely overwhelming, especially when you only have a brief knowledge of the label and some of its artists. The recently released Fania Records 1964-1980: The Original Sound Of Latin New York (Strut) is hands-down one the best compilations to represent the label and the artists with the respect and glamour it and they so richly deserve.

At a time well before the music industry started to accept Latin music as a viable source of income on the popular music side and well before Santana emerged on the scene, there was the Latin and Afro influence of Fania. The original creation of the now legendary clarinetist and bandleader, Johnny Pacheco, the label fused the interests of Spanish Harlem and the young vibe of the city into an infectious dancefloor groove that would influence countless artists to come. This compilation collects some of most important tracks spanning almost two decades. For many, you will recognize classics like Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco's monster groove of "Quimbra." This duo recorded a slew of records for the label and this was one of their most popular tunes. Cruz is in prime form and shows why she is considered the Queen of Latin music.

Johnny Pacheco's own "Dakar, Punto Final" has all the roots of salsa, merengue, charanga and other Latin sub-genres. It's hip-shaken' bass/percussion mixed with the cacophony of horns will make you want to throw an impromptu party after listening. Mongo Santamaria is featured here with the classic "O Mi Shango". Mongo Santamaria was already becoming a star on the jazz scene as a result of John Coltrane's rendition of "Afro Blue" a few years earlier. Along with artists such as Ruben Blades, Hector Lavoe, Joe Bataan and the great Willie Colon, Johnny Pacheco would later develop what most people may know these artists by--The Fania All-Stars. This massive collective performed around the world to insanely large audiences. This was the real spreading of the Latin vibe and would have a profound affect on jazz and world music from America to England to Africa.

Fania Records 1964-1980 is a real treasure trove of Latin classics spanning 2 discs (29 songs) but it is also a document of one of the most important labels and artists to come out of the New York City at the time. These artists influenced generations both in jazz, rock and world music. Their impact really can't be questioned or overstated. Even if you only know a small bit about Latin music you need to own this compilation. It's not just a history lesson its a party album to beat all party albums. And if you are a jazz fan its should be in your collection. Period. A real must have. 

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