As master “tresero” Nelson Gonzalez told me in an exclusive for Latino Music Café, he and Danny Rivera began collaborating in the album of Boleros “Obsesión” about 11 years ago. The album released today, March 25, grew organically from an idea to record Danny’s voice with minimal selected instrumentation.
“I had the idea of recording a Boleros album with Danny Rivera that would be just titled ‘El Tres y La Voz’. It was going to be just Danny singing with me in the “Tres”. As we started recording songs in the studio, we decided to add particular instruments depending on each song in a free improvisation format. However, we still wanted to keep it as simple as possible. That was the concept behind ‘Obsesión'”.
Although it is rare to see a “Tres” player as main collaborator in a Boleros album, Nelson has done several collaborations with Danny Rivera. One of those was the album “Hágaze La Luz”, a beautiful Christmas album where Danny used a Cuban “Tres” and a Puerto Rican “Cuatro”. Then later they joined forces again in “Querido Daniel”, a mainly Boleros album dedicated to the late great singer Daniel Santos. Nelson told me “that album was like the introduction of the “Tres” into Boleros”.
The Idea for “Obsesión”
Unlike other albums, the recording of “Obsesión” occurred organically. “When we started recording, we started with “the voice and the Tres”, recording popular songs that everyone knows, but here they would hear them with a different fusion of instruments. I had this idea of recording just the melody and the singer, then adding a soloist instrument to accompany each song.
In this audio clip, Nelson Gonzalez talks about the genesis of “Obsesión” and the process of adding other musicians to particular songs:
One of the guest musicians in this album is the late maestro of the percussion Manny Oquendo, with whom Nelson played in Oquendo’s Conjunto Libre. “Obsesión” was the last recording in which Manny Oquendo participated, where he played the conga and bongos in selected songs. In the following audio clip Nelson Gonzalez talks about how he learned from the legendary percussionist and bandleader the dignity of playing his instrument.
Choosing Instruments and Musicians for Each Song
Apart from the naturally organic way in which the songs came together, what makes the songs in “Obsesión” so refreshing is that each song had a different instrumentation carefully hand-picked to fit the song and Danny Rivera’s interpretation.
In the following audio clip, Nelson talks about the musicians selected for “Obsesión” and the peculiarities of choosing instruments for each song.
“Obsesión” a Slow-Cooked Bolero Album
As Danny Rivera had told me in our previous conversation, “Obsesión” took about 11 years to come together. Nelson added, “it took a long time because you have to remember that Danny lives in Puerto Rico and I live in New York. So we had to wait for Danny to travel to New York for shows in order for us to get together and work on the project.”
“The other reason was that I didn’t want any record label or any other producer to get their hands in this project. I wanted the roots of the Bolero to be heard in the exquisite way you can listen to it in this album. I think we called it “Obsesion” in part because eventually it became an obsession for us to finish and release the album”, Nelson said jokingly.
I wish all albums would be recorded as naturally and with the same passion for beautiful music, without any contamination of commercial interests, as “Obsesión” was done. I’ll be reviewing “Obsesión” in my next blog, so stay tuned!