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SALSA Y CONTROL
Now into their fifth decade and considered icons in Colombia, the Lebrón Brothers are one of most original and distinctive sounding salsa bands to come out of New York. Between 1967 and 1982 they knocked-out 16 albums on the Cotique Records label founded in late 1965 by George Goldner (1918-1970). Originally organized in 1965 with the name Angel Lebrón and his Orchestra, the outfit is co-led by Angel Lebrón (bass, arranger, composer, cuatro, lead and chorus singer) and José Lebrón (piano, arranger, composer, lead and chorus singer). Angel and José were born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. The band made their recording debut when the R&B/Latin fusion style called boogaloo was at the height of its popularity and the bands of Ricardo Ray, Joe Cuba, Pete Rodríguez, Johnny Colón and others were producing hits with their boogaloo recordings.
Angel later recalled: “I saw George Goldner’s Hartford, Connecticut address on the back of Johnny Colón’s first LP. I telephoned him and invited him to a rehearsal at Brooklyn’s Las Vegas Club. He liked our three boogaloos and flipped over my brother Pablo’s vocal on Mala Suerte. He suggested we become the Lebrón Brothers. When we recorded Psychedelic Goes Latin in June we didn’t get paid for it. Six months later, Mr. Goldner gave us a $1,400 royalty check. We had two books (i.e. arrangements or charts)—boogaloo and typical music.” (Quoted by Max Salazar in his article Afro-American Latinized Rhythms, 1988.)
The Lebrón Brothers managed to long outlive the brief boogaloo craze with a repertoire that continued to feature a mixture of Latin numbers and R&B/soul-oriented tunes with English-language lyrics. The oldest brother, Pablo, sang Spanish lead vocals with the band until 1981, when unfortunately he suffered a stroke. Goldner produced the brothers’ first five albums on the label between 1967 and 1969. The sixth, the 1970’s Salsa y Control, became their biggest hit, selling over one million copies worldwide, and marked the album debut of Frankie Lebrón as conga player with the band.
The classic hit title track of Salsa y Control, composed by José, was cited by Venezuelan salsa authority César Miguel Rondón as being one of the factors contributing to the use of the word salsa (sauce) as a descriptive term for Latin music. The expression “salsa y control” also designates the swinging, yet restrained style the Lebróns have made their speciality. Ironically, the song is not representative of this. Since the resurgence of salsa dura (hard salsa) in the 1990’s, Salsa y Control has been covered by a number of bands. The most notable is the 1999 version by Frankie Vázquez and Martín Arroyo on the debut album by Los Soneros Del Barrio. Vázquez performed with the Lebrón Brothers for over three years and sang co-lead vocals on their 1998 album Lo Místico on Cotique.
The majority of the tracks became perennial favorites. Tu Llegaste A Mi Vida, written by Pablo, is a slow burner. Angel’s composition Bongo Loco is quintessential Lebrón: Pablo’s vocals pave the way in the first part; then the band establishes a relentless groove, in this instance, interposed by a solo from bongosero Carlos Lebrón, who joined the band on the their fourth release Brother. The guys lock into another of their trademark grooves on the hit José penned Piensalo Bien.
Regresa A Mi is an adaptation by José of Glen Campbell’s 1970 hit Honey written by Jimmy Webb. Que Pana is another vintage Lebrón cut, featuring a piano solo from José, the song’s composer. Gabe Gill takes a poignant alto solo on the smouldering bolero Estoy Loco. Sabor Típico is an all too brief salsa/funk instrumental written by Angel, showcasing solos from Gill and timbalero Tito Ocasio.
Following the success of Salsa y Control, Cotique commissioned the solo project Pablo, a set comprised of mainly slow romantic numbers arranged and conducted by José. After the band concluded their tenure with Cotique, which was taken over by Fania Records in the early ’70s, they made albums for the Caimán, El Abuelo, Yengo, Astro Son, Boso, Cotique (a one-off return in 1998) and Exclusivo labels between 1986 and 2004. They made their first visit to Colombia in 1979, where they continued to grow in status and recorded their live 35th anniversary album there in 2002.
(Cotique C 1049), Released 1970
Angel Lebron – Bass
Jose Lebron – Piano
Carlos Lebron – Bongo, Percussion
Frankie Lebron – Congas
Gabe Gill – Alto Saxophone
Herman Sandana – Tenor Saxophone
Louis Maldonado – 1st Trumpet
Pete Maldonado – 2nd Trumpet
Tito Ocasio – Timbales
Singers: Pablo Lebron, Angel Lebron, Jose Lebron
Cover Photo by: Felix Romano
Model: Wendy Woods
Album Design: Izzy Sanabria
Engineer: Pat Jacques/B’way Sound Studios
Written by John Child