After moving to Puerto Rico in 1968, Bobby Valentín made a name for himself as a salsa bandleader with the release of two albums: 1969’s Se La Comió and 1970’s classic “Algo Nuevo.” Even though he had already recorded four excellent albums in New York with vocalist Marcelino Junior Morales, it was “Algo Nuevo” that found the arranger from Orocovis and Coamo coming of age as a bassist, leaving behind his days as a trumpet and sax player. The singer on “Algo Nuevo” is the late Frankie Hernández, a sonero blessed with a sweet phrasing and a buoyant style. Valentín had met him in 1966, when, during a visit to Puerto Rico, he shared a concert bill with Orquesta Internacional at the El Coameño venue in the neighborhood of Carolina.
When he returned to San Juan, the two men met again and Valentín asked him to join his new orchestra. In 1970, the year in which the armed conflict between the U.S. and Vietnam grew in intensity with the subsequent death of many Puerto Rican soldiers, Valentín tried to cheer up his people with an irresistible collection of songs overflowing with swing. Written by Tite Curet Alonso, the son montuno “Huracán” boasts a trombone solo by Reynaldo Jorge. Its lyrics compare unrequited love with a storm that pounds a land where plants will never blossom.
The guaguancó “Por El Ojo”, the story of a man who analyzes the charms of a beautiful mulata, still provides, 37 years after it was released, a good pretext for dancing. Yet another guaguancó, Valentín’s original composition “Ven Rumbero” recreates the opulent sound of Tito Puente and Tito Rodríguez with a dense combination of trumpet, trombone and saxophone. The mood changes drastically with “Fire And Rain,” the James Taylor hit that was also recorded by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. This arrangement finds Valentín combining elements and harmonies from the blues, jazz and bolero. “Descarga” is true to its title, evoking the fiery, late night jam sessions that Latin, Jewish and American musicians would hold at the Village Gate and other jazz and salsa clubs in New York. One more Tite Curet Alonso song, the son montuno “Total Para Nada” is a heartfelt lament about a person who struggles during his life, overcomes the obstacles in his way and eventually realizes that all his efforts were in vain. Any similarity with the fate of many a Puerto Rican soldier in Vietnam is purely coincidental. On “Yo Soy Abacua,” one of Frankie’s unforgettable interpretations on this album, Valentín touches on the subject of yoruba religion, which was extremely popular in New York during the ’60s and ’70s. Tite’s “Pan De Negro” is a guaguancó about the explotation of workers in the sugar cane plantations of the 18th and 19th centurias – a theme that Curet Alonso would touch again on Plantación Adentro. The voice of Paquito Guzmán in the backup vocals is yet another reason to rediscover this highly danceable nugget. “Algo Nuevo” ends on a jazzy note with “Casino,” a composition by Joe Orange.
The work of Frankie Hernández on this session was particularly noteworthy. The singer’s addiction problems kept him away from Valentín’s band following the recording of this album, but he would return in 1973 to share vocal duties with Marvin Santiago on the timeless Rey Del Bajo.
Written by Jaime Torres-Torres Credits: Bobby Valentín – Bass/Arranger Reynaldo Jorge – Trombone Randolfo González – Trumpet Melvin Sotomayor – Trumpet Ray Coen (Raymond Concepción) – Piano Oscar Colón – Timbales Rafael El Indio Martínez – Alto Sax Wilfredo De La Torre – Baritone Sax William D. Danny Thompson – Congas Héctor Tito Faberllé – Bongos Vocals By – Frankie Hernández Coros – Andy Montañez, Paquito Guzmán Produced By – Jerry Masucci Recording Director – Johnny Pacheco Recorded At – Ochoa Recording Studios, San Juan PR. Original Cover Design – Izzy Sanabria