Best Latin Music of 2014

This is the best of Latin music blog expected by Latino Music Café readers. But the word “best” is a very subjective term, as what is best for me might not be the best for you.

This year, instead of “best” I will comment on the most remarkable Latin music albums of 2014.

Clarification Notes on Remarkable Latin Music

Let me provide a couple of quick clarification notes before I dive into the music reviews. First, “remarkable” means it’s worth making a remark on. In this case, music that may not be the “best”, but for several reasons you’ll be inclined to remark on.

The best example here is Miguel Zenon’s “Identities are Changeable” album. For reasons that I’ll explain later, this is the most remarkable album in Latin Jazz, yet, for many of you it may not be the best, since it has spoken word interviews all over the album. Yet, because of the concept, the music, the theme it addresses, etc., I find it one of the most remarkable albums in Latin Jazz.

I could have chosen to simply go with my opinion of the “best” Latin music albums, but why re-invent the wheel. A good list of those are in the nominees for Latin Grammy awards. The second point is that the scope of this review is limited to the albums I was able to listen. So let’s get to it!

Most Remarkable Salsa Albums

Salsa de la Bahia, Vol. 2 “Hoy y Ayer” – this is the most remarkable Salsa album of the year, and it’s worth remarking it also includes Latin jazz. The album concept makes it a great compilation of the Latin music from the San Francisco Bay Area, especially when combined with Vol 1 (2013) in order to have the complete music timeframe starting on the late 80’s. The hard to find or simply hidden Salsa jewels in this album ,along with the great liner notes make it a must have for Salsa lovers. You can read the full review of this album in the link HERE.

Panamanian singer songwriter Omar Alfanno on Salsa album cover

Omar Alfanno delivered a CD where he sang his own songs made popular by other start Salsa singers.

Omar Alfanno “De Panama Para el Mundo” – as runner up Salsa album I selected the album from Salsa Romantica or Pop Salsa song-writer extraordinaire Omar Alfanno. In this CD/DVD, which for some reason or another I never got to write a review, the famed Panamanian singer song-writer reprises his most beloved hits, known mostly in the voices of Marc Anthony, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Willie Colon, Luis Enrique, and Tony Vega, among many others. Luis Enrique and Tony participate in the album (but only on the DVD expanded version).

What makes this a remarkable album is not only the great songs, and fantastic musical arrangements, which try to move the Salsa closer to the harder Salsa Dura, than the softer pop or romantica style, but also the stories about the songs, which really add color and background to most of those Salsa hits. This is something that artists keep missing in their concerts, and which makes it a much better experience than simply listening to the album at home.

Other remarkable Salsa albums include Herman Olivera’s “La Voz del Caribe”, Ismael Miranda’s “Son 45” (check out the full review HERE), and Luis Enrique’s “Jukebox 1ra Edicion” (check out the full review HERE).

Most Remarkable Latin Jazz Album

Que Viva Harlem Afro Cuban Latin jazz album cover

Bobby Sanabria led another outstanding Latin jazz project with the Manhattan School of Music Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra.

Bobby Sanabria & The Manhattan School of Music Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra “Que Viva Harlem” – I find this the most remarkable Latin Jazz album for the carefully selected songs of the great era of jazz and Latin music in Harlem, and the powerful arrangements performed by this orchestra on a “live” recording!

You can read the full review of “Que Viva Harlem”, which includes a couple of clips of my interview with Bobby Sanabria in the link HERE.

Miguel Zenon’s “Identities are Changeable” – this was a hard one to place as runner-up, because this album is just as remarkable as Bobby Sanabria’s work with “Viva Harlem”. Perhaps the fact that it has spoken word made the tie-breaker, since that limits a bit when you can enjoy this album. You really have to sit and listen to this album to get the messages being transmitted throughout this seminal musical work.

You can read thefull review of “Identities are Changeable” in the link HERE.

Other remarkable Latin Jazz albums include Mark Weinstein “Latin Jazz Underground” and Michael Spiro’s “Ritmos Unidos”.

Most Remarkable Latin Pop

Danny Rivera and Nelson Gonzalez “Obsesion” – I find this the most remarkable album in Latin pop because of the unique approach they took on this album of “Boleros”. Danny and Nelson brought in different artists with different instrumentation specially suited for each song. They brought a great lineup of performers and combined them in unique ways to obtain a remarkable album! You can read the full review of “Obsesion” in the link HERE.

Danny Rivera on the studio of "Obsesion"

Danny Rivera and Nelson Gonzalez released “Obsesion”, an innovative album of Boleros.

Cascada de Flores “Radio Flor” – this is my runner-up for remarkable Latin pop album. This is a great pop-folk album that is beautifully produced and performed, with delightful melodies of the Mexican and Cuban songbooks. You can read the full review of “Radio Flor” in the link HERE.

Other remarkable Latin pop albums include Fonseca “Sinfonico” and Marco Antonio Solis “Gracias por Estar Aqui – Deluxe” .

Most Remarkable Latin Folk Albums

Ruben Blades’ “Tangos” – the idea of transforming his hits into beautiful Tango arrangements was an innovative idea which was well executed. The album production and performance was 1st class, even if some songs tend to sound a bit strange in Tango rhythm.

Other remarkable albums are “Raiz” by Lila Downs, Niña Pastori, and Soledad, as well as the album “Mujeres con Cajones” by Albita, Eva Ayllón, and Olga Cerpa.

Summary of Remarkable Latin Music of 2014

As you can see some popular artists were left out. Some had great albums, that were good enough to win music awards, and perhaps remarkable in that sense, but I was looking for innovation and creativity besides just making a good album. For us Latin music fans, 2014 was a good year in Latin music

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