Rebeca Mauleón, piano, keyboards, lead and background vocals, palmas, musical directions; Giovanni Hidalgo, congas, batá drums, timbales, bombo, hand percussion; Jimmy Branty, drums, timbales; Bill Ortiz, trumpet, flügelhorn; Gary Brown, bass; Edgardo Cambón, Reggaetón and background vocals;
Latin Fire is Renaissance woman Rebeca Mauleón's second recording under her own name. Her first, Round Trip, earned Top 10 status on the Latin Beat Hit Parade for 7 consecutive months,including number 1.
Mauleón is a vocalist, pianist, composer, arranger as well as an author and educator. Latin Fire is completely her own creation. She wrote and arranged all 10 tunes (11 if you include the D.J. Mix of "La Ventana,") sings lead background vocals, plays piano and keyboards and even contributes palmas (hand claps) to the mix. She is credited with the musical direction which is apparent.
Rebeca lives in the San Francisco Bay Area but her heart is in the the rhythms of the Caribbean or as she says "mi ritmo Caribeño." Puerto Rico and especially Cuba are the inspiration for most of her lyrics and of course rhythms, beginning with "Batamambo," an homage to Ochüin, goddess of beauty. What better beginning for a recording entitled Latin Fire.
On board for the ride are Bill Ortiz on trumpet; Gary Brown, bass; Cuban whiz kid Jimmy Branly on drums and the absolutely remarkable Giovanni Hidalgo playing congas and hand percussion.There is also a variety of vocalists including spoken word.
Rebeca Mauleón sings in Spanish with a rounded contralto voice, relaxed and completely in charge at all times. The same can be said for her music which is passionate but not aggressive. Background vocals appear and disappear while Reggaetón and ad lib vocals add interest and spice to the mix. Bill Ortiz hits brassy high notes and swings hard as the band's brass section. Latin rhythm sections don't get better than this. Giovanni Hidalgo may be the greatest congueiro of all time including Chano Pozo, Candido or Potato Valdez. If you don't believe me check him out next time he's in town... The rhythm breaks are right in the tradition and the players play those great fills like one person. However this is not what I would call a hot Latin album. The mixing and mastering are artful. It's clear that months not weeks were spent in the studio in post-production layering of tracks so the final product is a perfect work of Latin music and very easy to listen to. I would call this recording Latin Inspiration and save Latin Fire for the hot live album waiting just around the corner!
One more thing-Kudos to Rebeca for the English translations, bringing more people into the wondrous world of ritmo Carbeño.
by David Heymann