Monday, April 13, 2009

19 Days

Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, The New York Times finally published an obituary for Manny Oquendo. In English, by A. E. Velez. Nice photo. Recommended.

Here is an older video of Libre with Manny on bongo and bell. Nice crowd shots; Jerry Gonzalez takes a conga solo. The tune, by Cuban conguero Francisco Aguabella, was recorded by Tito Puente in the '50s when Aguabella was in his orchestra. Check out this trombone-dense arrangement, classic of the Libre sound.

Now, check out this TV appearance of Libre screaming their Puerto Rican heritage with the classic plena, "Elena Elena." The fluid, forceful Herman Olivera was never more at ease on lead vocal, and count 'em, FIVE TROMBONES feature a young Jimmy Bosch soloing. Manny follows this with a signature solo on timbales:

I also like this one a lot, it tells you why Libre was, is, a great band: flexibility and an inimitable chemistry of groove. Look at flutist Dave Valentin pumping his cintura as he plays! Que sabor maravilloso, reminds me of old Orquesta Broadway videos. The camera blacks out for a little while during Willie Rodriguez' tremendous piano solo, but hang in there; visuals are back for Manny's extended treatment of the pailas. The tune, "Suavecito," is a traditional Cuban son by Ignacio Piñeiro, refitted with Libre's "free" sensibility. They aren't showing off or inventing some esoteric idiom, they're embedding deeply personal and modern utterances in the historical repertoire. It's music made primarily for musicians (themselves) that remains, first and foremost, music of the people.

For more media links, tributes from fellow musicians, and video footage:
Search Onda Carolina for Manny Oquendo

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