Sonora Ponceña – Navidad Criolla

Sonora Ponceña - Navidad Criolla album cover

Unlike other Navidad albums this one comes across as hard salsa compared to the typical aguinaldo styled arrangements we hear at this time of the year. Vocals by Luigi Texidor and Tito Gomez, who flourishes on boleros, help to keep the music exciting and alive. This album, from 1978, is performed by Papo’s musicians with Adalberto Santiago and Yayo El Indio on coro. Larry Harlow produced, but the Criollo feeling is there, nonetheless.

Enrique “Quique” Lucca Caraballo, better known as Papo Lucca, member of the renowned Fania All Stars, leads this well-established orchestra under the direction of Papo’s father, Enrique “Quique” Lucca Caraballo, who formed the band back in 1954. The band has stayed active for a remarkable amount of time, recording dozens of albums, including a 55th anniversary album. The history of La Sonora Ponceña is the history of Quique Lucca (December 12, 1912 – October 9, 2016), who was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico. In 1928, when he was 16 years old, the family moved to Ponce where Quique learned to play the guitar. In 1944, Quique put together a band called “El Conjunto Internacional”, On 10 April 1946, Papo was born and would eventually take the reigns and become the leader of “La Sonora”. In fact, in 1951, Papo surprised his father and the other members of the “Internacional” band when, at only 5 years old, he joined a band practice and played conga superbly.

Arranger/pianist, Papo Lucca, was a devoted follower of Rogelio Martinez’s famous Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera, and styled his band in a similar fashion by using a brass section that consisted of just three trumpets along with a full rhythm section. He called his band La Sonora Ponceña after his home town and in honor of La Matancera. —Bobby Marin