Cuidado que llegaron los tiburones de la salsa moderna – careful, the sharks of modern salsa are here. This hilarious shout out launches the first collaboration between virtuoso Nuyorican keyboardist Charlie Palmieri and Panamanian sonero Miguel Angel Barcasnegras, aka Meñique, recorded for the Cotique label in 1977.

At the time that he worked on this relatively obscure session, Palmieri had already released his seminal album El Gigante del Teclado with Puerto Rican vocalist Vitín Avilés. The singer’s velvety style complemented Charlie’s experimental tendencies to perfection. Meñique, on the other hand, brought a more raucous approach to the procedures. As a result, Con Salsa y Sabor is one of the most frantic sessions in Charlie’s discography – eight tunes of non-stop salsa with minimal space left for Palmieri’s trademark soloing. Both men would collaborate again on the excellent The Heavyweight LP in 1978.

Palmieri’s first extended solo arrives, surprisingly, on the third track of this album. An epic, eight minute-long workout, “Calor De Madre” is the mournful lament of a man who has just lost his mother and finds himself alone in the world. Heartfelt odes to motherhood are a tradition in the Afro-Caribbean songbook, and this composition by Meñique himself brings to mind similar tragic tales such as Héctor Lavoe’s “Día De Suerte” and “Madre” by Peruvian singer Melcochita.

Born in Panama City in 1933, Meñique built a solid reputation as a sonero performing with such tropical stars as timbalero Kako (Meñique’s first full length LP, in 1968), Arsenio Rodríguez, Willie Rosario, Tito Puente (singer on the seminal Para Los Rumberos LP, including the hit “Niña y Señora”), as well as a solo artist. But he was also a gifted composer. Seven of the eight tracks on this album were written by him, and his songs were recorded by artists like Ray Barretto and Adalberto Santiago.

Not surprisingly, two of the songs in this session express the singer’s undying love for his homeland: “Mi Tierra Lejana” and “De Panamá A Borinquen.” “Mi Tierra Lejana,” in particular, should be used by the Panamanian Board of Tourism to promote the country – this exuberant track boasts a variety of musical moods, as well as a zesty list of everything that makes Panama such an appealing destination. When Meñique shouts “llegó la salsa, caballeros” it is one of those intense moments of pure fever that delights salsa fans.

Unlike other tropical bandleaders who are no longer with us, like Tito Puente or Ray Barretto, the recorded output of Charlie Palmieri’s was relatively small. This becomes particularly painful considering that Charlie was the man that his younger brother Eddie Palmieri referred to as “el verdadero rey de las blancas y las negras” (the real king of the ivories). In effect, every one of Charlie’s recorded solos is a precious moment to enjoy. Every one of his albums, a treasure.

As part of the promotion of this record, Palmieri and Meñique appeared on the infamous Puerto Rican TV show Noche de Gala performing an electrifying version of “El Barón.” A clip of this performance (including a wonderfully dissonant, almost violent piano solo by Charlie) is widely available on the Internet.

Watching a young Meñique belting out this song with his usual passion, framed by Charlie’s piano and a ferocious salsa orchestra, you can’t help but fool yourself into believing, for a brief moment, that the spirit of old school salsa is still alive and kicking in this day and age.


Charlie Palmieri – Piano, Percussion
Bobby Rodríguez – Bass
Juan Papin Jr – Bongos (“Con Salsa y Sabor,” “El Amante,” “El Barón,” “Tributo a Pedro Flores”)
Willie Rodríguez – Bongos
Johnny “Dandy” Rodríguez – Congas (“Con Salsa y Sabor,” “El Amante,” “El Barón,” “Tributo a Pedro Flores”)
Alfredo Manfrede – Congas
Mike Collazo – Timbales (“Con Salsa y Sabor,” “El Amante,” “El Barón,” “Tributo a Pedro Flores”)
Teddy Denoyer – Timbales
Roy Roman – Trumpet (“Con Salsa y Sabor,” “El Amante,” “El Barón,” “Tributo a Pedro Flores”)
Lou Laurita – Trumpet (“Con Salsa y Sabor,” “El Amante,” “El Barón,” “Tributo a Pedro Flores”)
Jose Merino – Trumpet
Nahum Mercedes – Trumpet
Keith O’Quinn – Trombone (“Con Salsa y Sabor,” “El Amante,” “El Barón,” “Tributo a Pedro Flores”)
Tom Malone – Trombone
Bobby Nelson – Sax
Harry Viggiano – Guitar

Lead Vocals – Meñique
Chorus – Adalberto Santiago, Nestor Sanchez, Vitín Aviles

Producer – Charlie Palmieri
Recorded at – La Tierra Sound Studios, NY
Engineer – Irv Greenbaum
Arrangements – Charlie Palmieri, Rodolfo Manzano, Jose Merino, Jose Madera
Copyist – Juan Alexis Martínez
Original Album Cover & Liner Photos – Mark Kozlowski
Original Album Design – Pam Lessero

Written by Ernesto Lechner