Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Bandleader/percussionist (timbales, conga, bongo, maracas, etc) Rafael Cortijo passed away in 1983, but his legacy looms large over the world of Latin music.

In the 50s, with his Combo, he pioneered a modernized brass and saxophone-led danceband form of the Puerto Rican music and dance idioms, bomba and plena. In the mid-50s he recorded his first number "El Bombon de Elena" on the Seeco label with singer Ismael Rivera, then vocalist with Orquesta Panamericana. He eventually switched to the Gema label and released a series of albums. After being imprisoned for a drug offense in 1962, members of his combo, led by pianist Rafael Ithier, split to become El Gran Combo.

In 1966, Rafael organized a new group called Cortijo y su Bonche and eventually debuted with them on the classic LP Sorongo. The album is an amazing blend of Latin soul, Afro-Cuban, Salsa, and Boogaloo styles, and the title track bears witness to that.

(Thanks to the Rafael Cortijo page at Geocities.)

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