Liner Note Author: Jacob Edgar.
Illustrator: Nicola Heindl.
Putumayo World Music has come out with some intriguing salsa/Afro-Cuban compilations over the years. Their 2003 release, Salsa Around the World, for example, took a look at salsa and salsa-influenced artists from non-Hispanic countries and included artists from such unlikely places as Scotland, Japan, and Finland. Putumayo Presents: Salsa, however, focuses primarily (though not exclusively) on salseros latinos , and Putumayo reminds listeners that not all Latinos who perform salsa are of Cuban or Puerto Rican descent. Of course, Cubans and Puerto Ricans are the groups who are the most closely identified with salsa, which started in pre-Castro Cuba and became extremely popular among Puerto Ricans. The vast majority of well-known salseros have been either Cubans based in Cuba or Florida, or Puerto Ricans based in Puerto Rico or New York City and its surrounding areas. So quite appropriately, Salsa spotlights skillful Puerto Ricans (Son Boricua on "Muñeca," the iconic Eddie Palmieri on "Sujétate la Lengua") as well as the long-running Cuban charanga band Orquesta Aragón (who team up with Puerto Rican salsa star Cheo Feliciano on "Son al Son"). But there are also selections by salseros from Colombia (Juanito y la Agresiva's "Angoa," Grupo Galé's "Volver, Volver," Fruko y Sus Tesos' "Nací en la Barriada"), and adding to the variety are two very different artists who have been based in Los Angeles: Poncho Sanchez and Ricardo Lemvo. Sanchez, a Mexican-American with a very Cuban-influenced approach, is best known for instrumental Latin jazz but usually includes one or two vocal-oriented salsa tracks on his albums -- and the lively "El Shing-a-Ling" is an example of Sanchez performing salsa. Lemvo, meanwhile, doesn't come from a Hispanic background; he grew up in the Congo, and "Ay, Valeria" is salsa that incorporates soukous (a form of African pop). One can't help but wish that this 47-minute CD were 25 or 30 minutes longer; even so, this is yet another rewarding salsa/Afro-Cuban compilation from Putumayo. ~ Alex Henderson