Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 22 Oct. '50, Manhattan, NYC, of Puerto Rican parentage) Salsa bandleader, pianist, percussionist, producer, arranger, composer, label boss. Studied violin and orchestration in high school '65, soon switched to trumpet; played conga in street rumbones (rumba percussion and vocal jam sessions), did amateur gigs. Disillusioned with school he joined US Army '69-71; he taught himself piano by copying Richie Ray and Charlie and Eddie Palmieri, learning to read music while serving in Korea; after discharge he married his Korean girlfriend Myong '71. He returned to NYC and organized short-lived Orquesta Cuda; switched back to conga and founded band La Nueva Comparsa, back to piano and formed Conjunto Salsa '73, making album debut with Salsa Boricua on SMC. Besides producing and co-arranging, he wrote most of La Salsa del Conjunto Salsa con Wayne Gorbea '78 on Disco International including the dark, brooding 'Los Rumberos', the band's lineup comprising four trombones, trumpet and Latin rhythm section. Followup on that label La Salsa y Charanga c'79 introduced a charanga flavour by adding flute and violin to two trombones, trumpet and rhythm. Issued 12-inch single 'Ariñañara' (composed by Chano Pozo)/'The Night Is Still Young' '80, his first release on his own Wayne Go label. He dedicated Sigan Bailando '86 on Wayne Go to Myong; future Libre member Frankie Vásquez provided lead vocals and played güiro. Conjunto Salsa lost some personnel including Vásquez to the Bronx-based charanga Charanson, led by pianist/ producer/ composer Héctor Serrano; Gorbea opted for a three-trombone front line for Conjunto Salsa on El Condimento '88 on Martínez; Orlando Avilés on lead vocals and güiro also wrote three tunes incuding. the title track (Avilés had contributed compositions to Gorbea's earlier albums). Gorbea and Conjunto Salsa often performed live on Al Angeloro's WBAI radio show Montuno (started '86; later evolved into his eclectic world-beat show New York International broadcast on WBAI until '91); Angeloro choose Gorbea to lead an on-air jam session in honour of the recently deceased Charlie Palmieri Sept. '88, from which emerged a stunning version of the '48 Arsenio Rodríguez classic 'Tumba Palo Cucuye' by the Wayne Gorbea All-Stars, the most popular track on the compilation The Montuno Sessions -- Live From Studio 'A' '95 on Mr Bongo, which also included Charanson's 'Descarga (Around Midnight)' of Dec. '87. Successful weekly for two months at SoHo's González y González club '96, Gorbea took his band, rechristened Salsa Picante by Libre's leader Manny Oquendo and sporting a two trombone/ one trumpet combination, into the studio to make the solid swinging Cogele El Gusto '97 on Wayne Go; Rick Davis, who played 'bone and arranged on Gorbea's '86 and '88 albums, was first trombonist and music director; 'Their sound oozes with Bronx sassiness,' wrote Libre's music director Andy González. His recordings have involved regular collaborator arranger/ composer Ramón Rosado and consistent sideman Rubén Borgas on timbales or bongo; other notable contributors including trombonist/ arrangers Ronnie Williams, Rubén Lebron and Dave Chamberlain (who did the tough and funky arrangement of 'Tumba Palo Cucuye' which first appeared on El Condimento) and trumpeter/ arranger Junior Vega.