Headshot for Jimmy Sabater

Jimmy Sabater

Jimmy Sabater is one of the more revered voices in Latin music – his role as one of the main vocalists with the Joe Cuba band for over 20 years pretty much ensured that. This role saw him take to the fore on some of the biggest crossover hits of the 1960s, and appear on some of the most sought after classics of both boogaloo and the nascent salsa scene. Throughout this period he also made several solo albums which highlighted his wonderful and distinctive voice, across a range of material in both Spanish and English, whilst also showcasing his skills as a timbalero of some talent.

Sabater was born in New York in 1936 of parents who had emigrated from Ponce in Puerto Rico. He grew up in the Barrio of Spanish Harlem, surrounded by music, and with neighbours such as Tito Puente, Luis Cruz and Willie Bobo. His dedication to following these greats led to him joining Joe Cuba in the late 50s and immediately giving him a signature song with “To Be With You”.

The Joe Cuba Sextet was one of the most popular acts on the early 60s Latin scene, but they reached a new level when they started to incorporate the rnb influenced rhythm of the boogaloo into their repertoire. They had pushed towards this in their later recordings at Seeco, but really captured it when they signed to Tico, when they worked up a suggestive dance routine into a hit record. That record, Bang Bang was a massive record, as was its’ b-side Push Push, follow up Oh Yeah and the album that they were all lifted from Wanted, Dead Or Alive. Over the next few years Cuba and the Sextet continued to mine this vein of success, and Tico convinced Jimmy to record as a solo artist in a series of albums produced by Miguel Estivill.

The first solo set out the stall with a mixture of proto salsa, Latin jazz and some classy supper-club soul such as the awesome “Times Are Changing In The USA”. It was however his second effort that is highly sought after today. Named and dedicated to his mother Teresa, it might have perhaps been natural to presume that it would be an album of tender sentimental songs, yet it is nothing of the sort. From the opening salvo of “La Flauta” we are given a tough exciting album, that is on the cusp of everything that was then happening in the world of Latin music. Tracks such as the opener, “Por Primera Vez” and “Vida” are birth of salsa masterpieces, whilst “Now That You’ve Gone” gives us more of the supper club soul sound. However the thing that is different on this LP from the previous one is the addition of a healthy dose of funk; Kool and the Gang’s “Kool It” is given a Latino Funk make-over that now sees it as a proven floor-filler, and “Yroco” is a blend of salsa-funk that is unmatched.

After this release Jimmy returned to the Joe Cuba fold, not releasing his next solo album until his 1980 Fania LP Gusto. During that period he also worked with Bobby Marin on tracks by Ocho and a Latin disco 12 inch “To Be With You” on the Salsa label, which is also considered to be a classic today. Jimmy is still very active and performing through til today. We are very happy to be able to bring you this CD as part of the Fania Rare Groove series.

Written by Dean Rudland.