Grupo Arcano’s “Desde El Otro Lado del East River” CD Review

The competition is fierce for Salsa music bands catering to Salsa dancers in the Greater New York area. There have been several young groups out there trying to fill the demand of “salsa dura pa’l bailador” (hard Salsa for dancers). Grupo Arcano, directed by George Velez, Jr. is a worthy contender in this battle.

The Brooklyn-based Grupo Arcano released their debut album “Desde el Otro Lado del East River” in 2012 under the Coqui Jives Music label. Arcano has a heavy sound thanks to the strong winds format, integrated by 2 sax’s (alto and tenor), 2 trumpets, and 2 trombones.

Arcano musicians are:
George Velez Vocals
Anthony Almonte Congas, güiro, bata, vocals
Harold Gutierrez Piano, coro
Daniel Diaz Bass
George Velez Jr. Alto sax, coro
Jacob Teichroew Tenor sax
Ricardo Cox Jr. Trumpet
Larry Nissman Trumpet, solos
Mike Engstrom Trombone
Nadav Nirenberg Trombone
Juan Gerena Timbal, bongo, maracas, bata
Guests: Hector Luis Pagan Vocals
Amarilys Velez Coro
Ray Torres Jr. Coro
Fernando Fernandez Coro
Matthew Sanchez Coro
Ryan Resky Trumpet
Abraham Saenz Bass

What I Like About “Desde El Otro Lado del East River”

Good “salsa dura” with swing for dancing – it reminds me of Orquesta Mulenze in its beginnings.Lyrics relating to various “barrio” scenarios. Obviously when they wrote “Lluvia Viene” they couldn’t have imagined a Hurricane Sandy would come by. “El Travieso Mayor” is a “tiraera” song, which one would think is directed to Willie Colon. They are talking about a band leader, who plays the trombone, of last name Colon. Could be a bunch of coincidences. I’ll have to ask George.

One of my favorite songs is “La Maya”, partly because it gives the album a refreshing change of pace – it’s a slower “son montuno”, with not one but 2 solos (piano and congas), and 2 mambos. My other favorite song is “Un Tipo Sala’o” due to its aggressive mambo with a trumpet solo-ing on top of the winds section in the mambo, which reminds me the old Salsa bands (Barretto, “Perico”, Olivencia come to mind with that style of mambo).

This is a “Salsa dura” album with arrangements which carry great swing for Salsa dancing. George Velez, Sr. provides great vocals and “soneos”. Grupo Arcano has a talented group of musicians. I especially like the “tumbao” of the conga throughout the album and the quality of the wind section. And the album has a very good recording quality.

What I Didn’t Like About “Desde El Otro Lado del East River”

Grupor Arcano showcase their “Salsa dura” in “Desde El Otro Lado del East River”

I only have one thing to point out in the “didn’t like” category: I found the chorus on “Preguntale” a bit repetitive and high pitched, and the tempo too fast. I liked the rest of the album, although I found a couple of areas of great potential for Arcano to build on:

Not enough solos to showcase the musical talents – with “Salsa dura” albums I like 2nd chorus and some solos. There are solos in the album, but I feel there were more opportunities for the band to showcase its talent. A case in point is the song “Rumba En Mi Barrio”. How can you have a song titled like that and don’t include a percussion solo in it? Can you imagine El Gran Combo’s or Willie Colon’s “Timbalero” without a timbale solo? The song did have a short trombone solo, but I found it a missed opportunity for a percussion solo.

My Recommendation of “Desde El Otro Lado del East River”

Grupo Arcano’s debut Salsa music album “Desde El Otro Lado del East River” makes the case for a young band with a swing for Salsa dancers to enjoy. The band clearly has talent and an excellent sound, and they have a great opportunity to keep developing and expanding their musical identity by adding more solos and arrangements that maximize Grupo Arcano’s generous wind section.

The Grupo Arcano reminds me of Puerto Rico’s Orquesta Mulenze when it first began. I’m not saying Arcano’s sound is like Mulenze’s, but rather that they have a fresh Salsa musical identity which is attractive to Salsa dancers, an attribute Mulenze also had although with a different sound. Mulenze went on to develop their sound further, becoming a favorite among Salsa dancers and listeners alike. I think “Desde El Otro Lado del East River” proves that Grupo Arcano has the shops to become a Salsa music dancer’s favorite, in the rapidly re-populating “Salsa dura” niche of bands in the Greater New York area.

For more information on Grupo Arcano and “Desde El Otro Lado del East River”, you can visit their web site at: http://www.elgrupoarcano.com

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