Monday, January 12, 2009

El Cantante

So I am going to share this with you all, some of you know already, but this is going to be hard for me to admit. Okay, are you ready? Brace yourself. On Saturday I sat through an entire two and a half hour ordeal entitled "El Cantante," starring Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. There I said it. But you know what? I'm not ashamed. Despite the god awful acting on Jennifer Lopez's part, the movie was still BAD ASS.

Marc Anthony plays the self destructive character of Hector LaVoe (stage name meaning the Voice). If you don't know who this guy is, he was a Puerto Rican singer who was scouted and paired with a New York jazz brass man named Willie Colon by Fania records in the mid 60's in New York city. The result was a meringue jazz latin folk rock explosion now popularly known as SALSA! When I started to think about the movie afterwards I realized that this sudden burst of creativity normally reserved for San Francisco and the counter culture "hippie movement" was also happening in the latin community in America too. Salsa is part rock, part jam band, part drum solo percussion amazement, often influenced by drug use and all compassion and heart and between Willie Colon's improvisational haunting brass riffs and Hector Lavoe painful heartfelt voice and aching lyrics they created a completely new genre of music that has stood the test of time.

So my next step was to go on to iTunes and that is where I found their 1969 release "Guisando" by Willie Colon canta Hector LaVoe. I picked this one because it was during the height of the sixties and the thought of these amazing performers rocking out a whole city block in the heat of summer in New York just totally blows my mind. Go figure, the album is absolutely deadly good! I mean I don't have any idea what most of the lyrics mean, but you know what, I'm learning them.

Now the movie is steeeeeeeped in heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana abuse on both the part of Hector and the JLo character his nutty wife of 30 years, and in much of the tradition of "I Walk The Line" or "Ray" or "Blow" it follows a pretty steady plot line of even though the music is legendary genius the creator just can't seem to kick the smack. It all ends very tragically actually when their son accidentally shoots himself and Hector dies of complications due to AIDS. Yeah not all that fun but true.

BUT, and a big BUT it is, this was still worth watching, because in between the awful cocaine induced marital rages and tragedy what nots there were moments of musical glory and splendor that I would have never expected from these two and am truly astonished actually were made. I have to say, Marc Anthony was damn good as a coked up 70's salsa king.

I can't in good conscious tell you to watch the movie, it might not be your kind of digg. But at least check out some Hector Lavoe (pre- 1973 before he left the Fania Allstars with Willie Colon if you want the original thing). The music is good people. I don't doubt that.

Its just that I'm finding that my imagination is the only thing limiting my realm of musical possibilities. Never in my wildest dreams did I know there was psychedelic latin new york 60's music (besides Santana). Now I have a WHOLE new genre to investigate.

Vive Musica! Vive Salsa!

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