NEW SWING SEXTET
Imagine a hot salsa band from the 1960s reuniting after a 30-year hiatus to discover an even greater, more global, fan base. "Rip Van Winkle couldn't have had it better," recalls co-bandleader George Rodriguez of the New Swing Sextet's (NSS) recaptured infectious popularity. "No one is more surprised than we are," says the vibist and original NSS member, "to be 'Back on the Streets.'"
Emusica Records and Henry Knowles Productions are proud to present the long-awaited reunion CD of the New Swing Sextet,"Back on the Streets--A Taste of Spanish Harlem Vol. 2" bringing together Rodriguez with a new crew of seasoned musicians with long histories of making music on the streets of Latin New York through harmonized vocals, piano, vibes, bass and Latin percussion. The New Swing Sextet last recorded in 1970 under the Cotique label. Today, the group returns under the Fania Family of Labels.
Thinking back on earlier days, George Rodriguez still pinches himself to make sure he is awake, attributing much of the success of this delayed dream to producer and internationally renowned deejay, Henry Knowles. "They had that, 'who's that?' response from the dancers that make hits," describes Knowles who started spinning and sharing long forgotten NSS dance tunes on the local and international club scene. After tracking down NSS co-leader Angel Justiniano, Henry started booking them at clubs to rave reviews from the dance floor. "Their music is smooth tempoed, not too fast, danceable and club oriented. Today, there are more non-Latinos dancing this music than anyone else," he underscores. That is attested by the growing demand of Salsa Congresses globally where dancers meet, compete or just shine. And NSS is a favorite among these dancers. Firing up the dance floors wherever they perform around the world, NSS has finally gained popularity and recognition globally.
In the early 1960's, Rodriguez was a young school band musician from Spanish Harlem, playing the clarinet at student recitals in Carnegie Hall and listening to popular American music, when he first heard live Latin music in a Bronx dance club, a precursor to today's salsa scene. A childhood friend introduced him to the tunes of popular west coast vibraphonist, Cal Tjader. He borrowed a xylophone and taught himself to play vibes. Along with a few friends they started playing together, and smiling, he recalls, "We didn't know much about this music genre and at rehearsals at a local school we didn't have a bass player or a pianist. We didn't know we needed them." The sextet's New York street sound matured and got attention. NSS played throughout the tri-state and did light traveling before disbanding in 1979. Citing the group's biggest fan base as their own backyard, the band members are amazed at how much value the term, "direct from New York" has on the rest of the world.
The CD, co-produced by Willy Torres, a vocalist with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, at his Ni-os Recording Studio in Brooklyn, features the arranging skills of pianist and music veteran, Joe Mannozzi; several original NSS favorites (El Bongo, The Monster, El Tiroteo) and presents the smooth voice of Rodriguez' son, Alejandro, doing a fusion rap version of Cheo Feliciano's popular tune, "El Raton." Among the other cuts are a cover of Tito Rodriguez' "El Balcon Aquel," Machito's "Buenas Noches Che Che," and Rafael Cortijo's "Monta Mi Caballito," songs which take you back to the heady days of the Palladium and the Corso.
The New Swing Sextet features Angel Justiniano on vocals and Congas; his younger brother Harry on bass and vocals; Tomas Martin Lopez on bongos, timbales, misc. percussion and vocals; Hector Ortiz on timbales and bongos; Joe Mannozzi on piano; George Rodriguez on vibes and vocals and the singing of Jose "Cheo" Medina on lead vocals.
"You couldn't make up a better story," says Emusica CEO Giora Breil, "that falls in line with the history of salsa in New York. Historically, with this new production, we are connecting the dots in a richly complex contribution of Latinos in the fabric of American music."