News & Updates — Salsa

Piper Pimienta / Aug 4, 1939 - June 4, 1998

Piper Pimienta / Aug 4, 1939 - June 4, 1998

Happy birthday to Edulfamid Molina Díaz, also known as Piper Pimienta, one of Colombia's most distinct salsa voices and one of the slickest dancers of his day. His name was inspired by his spicy dance, along with his uncle's claim that he resembled a pepper. Born in Puerto Tejada, outside of Cali, he got his start in the business around 1959 with orchestras such as Sonora del Pacífico and Orquesta Los Supremos. In the early '70s he joined Fruko y sus Tesos and was also a member of the Latin Brothers (with Joe Arroyo), El Combo Candela and the Colombia...

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Juan Formell / Aug 2, 1942 - May 1, 2014

Juan Formell / Aug 2, 1942 - May 1, 2014

The great Cuban bassist and composer Juan Formell is best known for being the leader of Los Van Van, and for being the creator of the songo, a fusion of Afro-Cuban, són, charanga, jazz, salsa, soul, classical and pop. Born into a musical family in Havana, he started his career in the late '50s, eventually playing with Elena Burke. He formed Van Van in 1969 after leading Orchestra Revé (and turning them into Changüí '68) and set about becoming one of the most important figures in the history of Cuban music. Los Van Van were the leading band on the...

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Cheo Feliciano / July 3, 1935 - April 17, 2014

Cheo Feliciano / July 3, 1935 - April 17, 2014

Feliz cumpleaños to the great salsero Cheo Feliciano. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, his family moved in the '50s to Spanish Harlem. As a teenager he started playing percussion with Tito Rodriguez' orchestra and with Kako's group. As well, he toured as a roadie with Mon Rivera. In 1956 he joined the Joe Cuba Sextet as their baritone-voiced Español-singing counterpart to the velvety English-languaged voice of Jimmy Sabater. The group became hot shit and made several amazing records for Tico and Seeco. In '67 Cheo left the group to join the Eddie Palmieri band. He sang with them until '69,...

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Bobby Vince Paunetto / June 22, 1944 - Aug 10, 2010

Bobby Vince Paunetto / June 22, 1944 - Aug 10, 2010

An underrated name in Latin jazz, Bronx-raised Bobby Paunetto (born to an Italian father and Spanish-speaking mother) only made a few recordings before Multiple Sclerosis disabled him around '79. He was a vibraphonist, heavily influenced by Cal Tjader, who started playing in 1961. After a military stint, he attended Berklee School of Music in Massachusetts, studying with Gary Burton. He played with Clare Fischer, Tito Puente, Buddy Rich, Mongo Santamaria, Armando Peraza, both the Palmieri brothers and his idol Tjader, who wrote "Paunetto's Point" in his honor. Bobby made recordings for Seeco, Roulette, Mardi Gras and his own Pathfinder label,...

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Francisco "Kako" Bastar / June 21, 1936 - July 29, 1994

Francisco "Kako" Bastar / June 21, 1936 - July 29, 1994

Kako was a well-respected percussionist, dancer and bandleader in the Latin music scene starting in the '50s. A Puerto Rican who moved to NYC, he played timbales, congas, bongos & quinto for Tito Puente, Arsenio Rodriguez, Mon Rivera, Mongo Santamaria, Charlie Palmieri, Patato Valdez and others, as well as working in a multi-capacity role (session musician, composer, talent scout, A&R, executive) for Alegre Records. He recorded as a leader and also helped put together the Alegre All-Stars (the format of which was copied from the old Cuban descarga sessions but became more famous for the Fania All-Stars later on), who...

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