When Puerto Rico’s most dynamic and popular tropical orchestra released this 1984 recording, salsa was slipping into darkness, opaqued in clubs and on radio by the merengue craze swept in with the wave of immigrants coming into New York and Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic. But you wouldn’t know it from Sonora Ponceña’s “Future.” As if predicting the yet to come, the dynamic Papo Lucca and his “Sonora Ponceña” give us close to an hour of heavy hitting salsa gorda that breaks for a romantic bolero and a Latin-jazz, Woody Shaw rendition spotlighting the virtuoso Papo on a flugelhorn solo, a pause from his prolific piano playing.

What stands the test of time with La “Sonora Poceña” is Papo’s creative yet tasty arrangements combined with his use of experimentation and improvisation. Add to all this the fact that Papo’s also a masterful multi-instrumentalist expert in trumpet, congas, timbales, bongos and bata as well as vibes and keyboards. The harmonies he gets from his horns (a Sonora is basically a band with two trumpets or more, add the name of Lucca’s hometown for patriotic tribute and you have “Sonora Ponceña”) fused with jazz influences from Chick Corea to McCoy Tyner make for lasting classics. Listen to the solo he does on “El Amor” on a Fender Rhodes and note the Herbie Hancock signature. This recording’s opening number “Agua A La Candela” has town character Julian burn down the house because of his annoying little habit of blazing before going to bed.

When the chorus calls out for the firemen, the trumpets echo with a call to charge. Papo’s surprising but delightful synthesized violins ¬¬–making for the sound of hoses and water –is a creative touch to a lively tune that tells a tragically funny story about life in el solar. “El Amor” and the bolero “Te Dire Muchas Cosas” make me think that Papo may have been in love or in a very romantic mood as both these numbers are sentimental tributes to the heart. “El Amor” underlines a most bewitching chorus followed by some penetrating conga work by Little Johnny Rivero. A Fender Rhodes solo by Papo during the final mambo climaxes into the finale. Take me back to Cuba with “El Dulcero,” a son montuno tribute to the street merchants of our ancestors’ times. Calling out their wares, or pregoniando, these frontline grocers brought us everything from clothes, food to candy, as the song says. A playful number with spicy conga rolls and slaps joined by an instrumental interplay that turns heads.

While “Woody’s Blue” takes us into our heads with a Latin-jazz take on this Woody Shaw number that has Papo open the tune on the flugelhorn, followed by the band that brings Papo back on keys. A great bass solo cuts through the dynamic playing with Papo featured on the horn throughout the piece. “Como Te Quise Yo” is a laid back guarachita that starts out trio style with harmonized voices that go straight into the grooved out rhythm and full brass section. Good number for dancers to shine. Yet the message here is clear: No one will love you like me. Papo, what are you doing to me! Interesting word play characterizes the lyrics of “Yo a Ti, Tu a Mi”. Playful, witty and coy this tune is upbeat and creative —perfect for dancers. “Te Dire Muchas Cosas” is ushered in by a team of harmonized trumpets that herald in the lead singer’s voice. A beautifully romantic tune that’s not too corny, this one will make you come-in-close. Sonora would always throw in a signature tune and on this one it’s “Esta Es la Sonora” (as if we didn’t know). Great harmonies on the coros with some wicked piano montunos that drive the horns while leading the percussion. No matter what they say about salsa, Papo and La “Sonora Ponceña” will always invite you to dance.

Credits: Quique Lucca – Leader Papo Lucca – Piano Ramón Rodríguez “El Cordobes” – Trumpet Delfín Pérez – Trumpet Heroberto Santiago “Ayatolah” – Trumpet Angelo Velez “Pocholo” – Trumpet Antonio Santaella – Bass Eddie Guagua – Bass Efrain Hernández – Bass Vicente Rivero “Little Johnny” – Conga Angel L. Hernández “Angelito” – Bongo Jessie Colón – Timbal Edwin Rosas – Güiro, Maracas Special Participation: Salvador Cuevas – Bass Papo Lucca – Flugelhorn (“Woody’s Blue”) Angelo Velez “Pocholo” – Trumpet Solo (“Agua A La Candela”) Vocals – Toñito Ledee, Miguelito Ortiz, Pichy Pérez Chorus – Papo Lucca, Edwin Rosas Producer and Musical Director – Papo Lucca Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci Recorded at – Crescendo Studios, Puerto Rico Recording Director – Quique Lucca Arrangements – Papo Lucca Chief Engineer – Alan Manger Assistant Engineer – Cheo Feliciano Jr. Studio Manager – Maya Acciani

Written by Aurora Flores