REY DEL BAJO

Chris Coyne

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REY DEL BAJO



Bobby Valentín Rey Del Bajo Released 1974 Bobby Valentín: The King of the Bass Ironically, El Rey del Bajo or the King of Bass, was a 15-year-old trumpeter when he arrived in New York from his native Puerto Rico in 1956. Two years later, he made his professional debut with Joe Quijano’s band. In fact, Valentín produced some of his earliest recordings with Quijano including the classic album La Pachanga Se Baila Asi (c. 1961) on Columbia Records. He later worked with the bands of Willie Rosario, Charlie Palmieri, Tito Rodríguez and Ray Barretto, playing bass with the latter. But it was with Willie Rosario’s orchestra that Valentín started arranging and playing bass in addition to the trumpet. He had begun playing guitar at the age of six, so he took to the bass with ease.

His influences as an arranger include Ray Santos and René Hernández, who both wrote for the renown Tito Rodríguez, considered one of New York’s Mambo Kings. Valentín formed his own band in 1965 and debuted with them on Ritmo Pa Goza (1966) on the Fonseca Records label. Group members included Puerto Rican-born lead vocalist Marcelino “Junior” Morales, timbales player Joey Pastrana and bongosero Tony Fuentes. Fania Records co-founder Johnny Pacheco knew Valentín from the days when his group used to alternate with Tito Rodríguez’s band. He enlisted Valentín as one of the first arrangers for his group Nuevo Tumbao, producing hits like Sarandonga sung by Chivirico Dávila on Pacheco Te Invita a Bailar (c. 1965 on Fania Records).

Valentín notably played trumpet on Pacheco His Flute and Latin Jam (c. 1965 on Fania Records), a studio charanga jazz jam session directed by Pacheco and featuring giants José “Chombo” Silva, Pupi Legarreta, Barry Rogers, Carlos “Caíto” Díaz, Orestes Vilató and Osvaldo “Chi Hua Hua” Martínez, to which Valentín contributed the composition Latin Gravy. Pacheco arranged for Valentín’s band to audition for Fania president Jerry Masucci and subsequently signed with the company in 1965. He released nine albums on the label between 1966 and 1974, beginning with Young Man With A Horn/Best In Bugaloo. Junior Morales continued to provide lead vocals until Valentín returned to Puerto Rico in 1968. Morales was succeeded by the forlorn timbre of Frankie Hernández on the 1968 song Se La Comió. Valentín switched permanently to bass on Algo Nuevo/Something New (1970). Husky voiced Marvin Santiago, a former Rafael Cortijo and Roberto Angleró band member, replaced Hernández on 1971’s Rompecabezas. At this point, Valentín settled for a frontline of two trumpets, trombone, tenor and baritone saxophones. Apart from substituting alto for tenor sax in 1976, Valentín has kept this instrumental mix until the present day. This horn combination represents each section of a big band, enabling Valentín’s arrangements to produce a big band sound that belies the actual size of his ensemble. Hernández returned on Rey Del Bajo (1974) to join Santiago as co-lead vocalist.

The album opens with a rock-solid remake of the Tito Rodríguez standard Hay Craneo sung by Santiago. This inspired the 2001 cover by Los Soneros del Barrio on their album Remembranzas Featuring Frankie Vázquez on Rumba jams. Valentín tips his cap to another Mambo King with his arrangement of Tito Puente’s composition Cuando Te Vea, originally from Puente’s Dance Mania (c. 1958 on RCA), sung here by Frankie Hernández. Listen for some thrilling trumpet action towards the end of the number. The Spanish Harlem Orchestra revisited the song for their 2005 Grammy winning album Across 110th Street on Libertad Records. Santiago demonstrates his versatility with his rendition of the evergreen bolero Espérame En El Cielo, which oddly enough is also reinterpreted on Across 110th Street. The smoking Guaraguao sung by Santiago is apparently derived from a merengue popularized by Angel Viloria and Dioris Valladares in the 1950’s.

A beautiful solo from pianist Edwin Rodríguez distinguishes Mi Ritmo Es Bueno, penned by Valentín and sung by Hernández. The band gets jazzy on the instrumental Codazos, featuring solos from trumpeter Juancito Torres, tenor saxophonist Emilio Sánchez and Valentín on bass. Santiago scorches on the Roberto Angleró composition Aquí No Me Quedo. The closing track, Valentín’s salsa/funk reading of the Luis Reyes Bacallao standard Coco Seco, has been recently rediscovered by Latin funk revivalists. After In Motion (1974), Valentín founded his own record label—Bronco Records—on which he has released and reissued productions by his own orchestra as well as other bands well into the 21st century.

He performed on the inaugural album by the Fania All Stars and continues to be active with the band. In addition, Valentín also has lent his various talents to an impressive array of artists and bands over the last five decades.

Vocals by: Marvin Santiago & Frankie Hernandez Produced by: Bobby Valentin Recording Director: Johnny Pacheco Arranged by: Bobby Valentin Musicians: Bobby Valentin – Bass Oscar Colon – Timbales & Traps Juan Torres – Trumpet Randolfo Gonzales – Trumpet Humberto Ramirez – Baritone Sax Emilio Sanchez – Tenor Sax William P. Thompson – Conga Edwin Rodríguez – Piano Hector Faberlle – Bongos James Adames – Trombone Ismael Quintana – Maracas Elliot Randall – Guitar Chorus: Ismael Quintana, Bobby Valentin, Marvin Santiago, Frankie Hernandez Recorded at Good Vibrations Sound Studios Engineer: Jon Fausty Photography: Tom Monaster Album Design by: We 2 Graphic Design Written by John Child