Wednesday, February 18, 2009

R.I.P. Joe Cuba (1931-2009)

Gilberto "Sonny" Calderón, aka Joe Cuba, died on February 15.

Linking to a nice, personal reminiscence posted by blogger Bronxrumba about his first Joe Cuba album.

Another nice post on the same blog from Sentimiento Mañana, from a different generational perspective. Includes Aurora Flores' detailed write-up of Joe Cuba's career.

AP's obit in USA Today

I regret not having seen Joe Cuba on stage. The few times I was in New York it seemed he was always playing a gig somewhere, and for reasons of logistics or whatever, I just never got around to it. I should have gone to New York more often.

Off the top of my head, some of my favorite Joe Cuba songs are "El Pito ("I'll Never Go Back to Georgia)," (probably my favorite among the boogaloo classics such as "Bang Bang," etc.), and "Mi Jeva," "Salsa Ahi'Nama," and "Joe Cuba's Latin Hustle" all from the 1976 album Cocinando La Salsa.

Is this really the only live clip of Joe Cuba on YouTube? Surely that will change shortly:

Spot the Boogaloo dance step: at the beginning of the clip, 3 figures come on stage. First Joe Cuba, who goes to the congas far right, then right behind him Cheo Feliciano who goes to the center mic, then Jimmy Sabater, the lankier fellow who goes to the timbales. As they are walking out, singers Cheo and Jimmy are doing this groovy little slow/fast step (moving on: "1...and-3"). I have it on authority of some old Palladium dancers that that's the way they used to dance boogaloo.

As Aurora Flores pointed out, Joe Cuba pushed a unique sound because his band didn't use horns. Those trademark vibes, just a real simple piano montuno, an English coro that anyone can sing, and Latin soneos, created a laid-back, improvised groove. There is no story line, and the singer (here the great Cheo Feliciano) may play with the message or the sounds of the words in a stream of consciousness way. He says, "come and dance my cha cha cha," which technically you could do to a 4/4 bugalu rhythm. This 4/4 cha cha-like structure reinforcing the African-American boogaloo groove is a classic form of Latin fusion. "Cornbread y lechon," that's the spirit of Latin bugalu.

UPDATE - Links:

--David Gonzalez' first-hand account of wake for Joe Cuba in NYT
--Blog version from one-day earlier--more pictures, details, reader comments

1 comment:

Sentimiento Manana said...


I don't think this the only live Joe Cuba on YT, but after I saw Cheo on vocals and Jimmy on tims, I looked no further. I would have preferred a to put up a song like "Arinanara", but no luck...

take care...