Colombia! The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes, 1960--76

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Gothamites like to think that New York always had a lock on the title “salsa capital of the world,” but it may not be a good idea to tell that to tropical-music fans from Colombia. Fed by musicians from Cartagena, Medelln and Bogot, the action in Cali, in the South American country’s Pacific region, has rivaled our own for decades—which is why Colombian stars like Joe Arroyo get the red-carpet treatment when they’re in NYC. Much of the creative ferment is the legacy of Discos Fuentes, the label whose namesake founder, Antonio Jos Fuentes, jump-started Colombia’s acceptance of African-based musics like cumbia, fandango and porro back in the ’30s.

Discos Fuentes exists to this day, but the estimable new comp Colombia! The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes, 1960--76 documents the period when the label really hit its stride. It’s no coincidence that this era is also when Nuyoricans wrested the Latino-music hegemony from Cuba; jazzy pioneers Lucho Bermudez and Pedro Laza, both here, offer lush, percolating arrangements akin to Tito Puente’s, while up-and-comers such as Fruko y Sus Tesos and the Latin Brothers (where Joe Arroyo apprenticed) were Discos Fuentes’s answer to East Harlem New Jacks Willie Coln and Hector Lavoe. In hindsight, multi-instrumentalist and arranger Fruko is modern Colombian music’s greatest man. His earthy basslines support several other bands on the comp (Wganda Kenya, Afrosound), and audibly influence the funk throughout.—K. Leander Williams

Various artists (Soundway; U.K.)