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Artist Band Biography: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Fania All-Stars - Music Artist Band Bio

Biography

The house band of Fania Records, comprised of the label's bandleaders, top sidemen and vocalists; and whose history represents the rise and promulgation of salsa as a marketing tag for Latin music. Italian-American lawyer Jerry Masucci co-founded Fania in 1964 with Dominican Republic-born bandleader Johnny Pacheco, explained the genesis and early development of the band in 1973: "In December 1967 . . . I was vacationing in Acapulco. I was out fishing and when I got back I received a phone call from New York from two promoters Jack Hooke and Ralph Mercado of Cheetah fame (a club on the south-west corner of 52nd Street and 8th Avenue, which Mercado co-managed in the 60s, promoting R&B acts like James Brown and Aretha Franklin). At that time they were holding concerts at the Red Garter (in Greenwich Village) Monday nights and were interested in getting the Fania All Stars together to do a jam session with invited guests Tito Puente of Tico Records and Eddie Palmieri and Ricardo Ray And Bobby Cruz of Alegre Records. It sounded like a good idea to me, so I flew back and got in touch with Johnny Pacheco. We put some material together and packed the place with 800 people. We also made the first two recordings of the Fania All Stars: Live At The Red Garter volumes 1 and 2 (1968). Although the albums were not too spectacular regarding sales.' A second Fania All Stars concert, held on 26 August 1971 at the Cheetah, was a complete sell-out. Volumes 1 and 2 of the Fania All Stars Live At The Cheetah which were recorded that night became the biggest selling Latin albums ever produced by one group from one concert. The Cheetah concert was filmed and featured in the documentary Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa) produced by Masucci and directed by Leon Gast, which premiered in New York on 19 July 1972.

After sell-out concerts in Puerto Rico, Chicago and Panama, the Fania All Stars made their first appearance at New York's 63,000 capacity Yankee Stadium on 24 August 1973, with Fania's leading lights Ray Barretto, Willie Col¢n, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valent¡n and others jamming with Manu Dibango, Mongo Santamar¡a and Jorge Santana (younger brother of Carlos Santana and guitarist with Malo). Material from their August 1973 Yankee Stadium concert and a concert at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, made up one side of Latin-Soul-Rock. In 1974, the All Stars performances at the 80,000 seat Stadu du Hai in Kinshasa, Zaire, were also filmed by Gast and released as the movie Live In Africa (1974, issued on video in the UK under the title Salsa Madness in 1991). This Zairean appearance occurred along with Stevie Wonder and others at a music festival held in conjunction with the Mohammed Alp/George Foreman heavyweight title fight.

The Fania All Stars return to the Yankee Stadium in 1975 resulted in two volumes of Live At Yankee Stadium, which highlighted Fania's and stablemates Vaya Records' top vocalists Celia Cruz, H‚ctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Justo Betancourt, Ismael Quintana, Pete "El Conde" Rodr¡guez, Bobby Cruz and Santos Col¢n. Clips from their August 1973 and 1975 Yankee Stadium concerts, as well as from the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, were included in Masucci's movie production Salsa (1976), co-directed by Masucci and Gast. The film was picked-up by Columbia Pictures for distribution, which was regarded as a major coup in marketing salsa for the general audience.

Venezuelan salsa authority C‚sar Miguel Rond¢n commented on the marked stylistic contrast between the movie Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa) and its successor Salsa in his 1980 book El Libro De La Salsa: "The producers' intention was evident: so that the salsa industry could really become a million-dollar business, it had to go beyond an exclusively Latin market; it had to penetrate the North American public majority market, and from here become an authentic fashion for the masses and succeed in coming to affect even the European audiences. In order to succeed in this, Fania's impresarios felt an obligation to radically change salsa's image. The first film, Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa), was totally harmful in this sense; it spoke about the ghetto, about how salsa came up and developed in the haunts of the marginal barrios, in environments of poverty and misery in direct contrast to all the display and gaudiness of the North American enslaving pop culture. It therefore had to make a film that would radically say the contrary: that salsa was, in reality, a fundamental part of that pop culture, that it was susceptible to being enjoyed by the majority publics and that it, absolutely, had nothing to do with minority groups and their always repugnant misery. And this, without further ado, would be the fundamental characteristic under which the so-called salsa boom would be animated; a boom that, in effect, would increase the markets and sales, but equally weaken the true meaning of the raison d'ˆtre of salsa music." This extract was translated by the sociologist Vernon W. Boggs for his article "Salsa's Origins: Voices From Abroad", a survey of various texts on the source of the word salsa, published in Latin Beat magazine, December/January 1992. He found that various authors seemed to agree that: "The popularity of the term (salsa), as a generic term for several musical modalities, was consciously universalized and successfully popularized by the Fania All Stars, Jerry Masucci, Leon Gast and the 'Fania Machine'."

In Masucci's pursuit of a wider market for salsa, he made a deal with Columbia Records in the USA for a series of crossover-orientated albums by the Fania All Stars. The first project was a coupling of Steve Winwood with the All Stars reduced to a rhythm section (Pacheco, Valent¡n, Barretto, Roena, Nicky Marrero and Papo Lucca) for the instantly forgettable Delicate & Jumpy (1976), released on Columbia in the USA and Island Records in the UK. Around that time, Island in the UK issued the Fania collection Salsa! (1975), compiled and annotated by Richard Williams, and Live (1976) by the Fania All Stars. In 1976 the Fania All Stars made their one and only UK appearance with a memorable sell-out concert at London's Lyceum Ballroom, with Steve Winwood guesting (his first time on a British stage since May 1974).

Prior to Delicate & Jumpy, the last "regular" Fania All Stars album on Fania for a couple of years was the solid Tribute To Tito Rodr¡guez (1976), introducing Rub‚n Blades to the band. The Columbia series continued in lightweight vein with Rhythm Machine (1977), again with the slimmed down Fania All Stars and keyboard player Bob James (executive producer) and guitarist Eric Gale guesting; and Spanish Fever(1978), with guests Maynard Ferguson, Hubert Laws, David Sanborn, Gale and others. 1978 also saw the release of Live, a "regular" Fania All Stars album on Fania with a fully-blown version of the band recorded in concert at New York's Madison Square Garden in September 1978. The last in the Columbia series, Cross Over, appeared the following year, as did Habana Jam (1979) on Fania, which came from an historic concert recorded on 3 March 1979 in Havana, Cuba. One track by the Fania All Stars was included on the various artists double album Havana Jam (1979) on Columbia, containing performance highlights from a trio of concerts at Havana's Karl Marx Theatre (2, 3 and 4 March 1979) with Billy Joel, Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Stills and Weather Report, together with Cuba's Irakere and Orquesta Arag¢n.

From 1980, Fania went into a downturn (attributed to the flop of Masucci's major movie The Last Fight; agitation by artists for unpaid royalties; the distribution deals with Columbia and Atlantic Records not catapulting salsa into the mainstream US market as expected; and Masucci claiming he had tired of "the same old thing' after 15 years); and the New York salsa scene, to which the label was inextricably linked, became eclipsed by the Dominican merengue craze in the first half of the decade and by the Puerto Rico-driven salsa rom ntica trend in the latter 80s and early 90s. Reflecting the company's decline, Fania All Stars" releases slowed to a trickle as the 80s drew to a close. Their albums between 1980 and 1989 included the Latin jazz outings California Jam (1980) and the particularly feeble Guasasa (1989); the crossover effort Social Change (1981) with guests Steel Pulse and Gato Barbieri; Bamboleo (1988) with four salsa-fied versions of Gipsy Kings hits; along with the sturdier Commitment (1980), Latin Connection (1981), Lo Que Pide La Gente (1984) and Viva La Charanga (1986). To mark the 20th anniversary of the band, Live In Africa, recorded in Zaire in 1974, and Live In Japan 1976 were issued in 1986. Thirty years of Fania Records was commemorated in 1994 by a three-city tour (San Juan, Miami and New York) by the reconvened All Stars. Three years later they released a brand new studio album on the JMM label.

Discography:
Live At Red Garter, Volumes 1 & 2 (Fania 1968), Live At Cheetah, Volumes 1 & 2 (Fania 1971)***, Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa) film soundtrack (Fania 1972)***, Latin-Soul-Rock (Fania 1974)***, Live At Yankee Stadium, Volumes 1 & 2 (Fania 1975)***, Salsa film soundtrack (Fania 1976)**, Tribute To Tito Rodr¡guez (Fania 1976)***, Delicate & Jumpy (Columbia 1976)***, Rhythm Machine aka Fania All Stars Featuring Jan Hammer (Columbia 1977)***, Spanish Fever (Columbia 1978)***, Habana Jam (Columbia 1979)***, Cross Over (Columbia 1979)***, Commitment (Fania 1980)***, California Jam (Fania 1980)***, Social Change (Fania 1981)***, Latin Connection (Fania 1981)***, The Last Fight soundtrack recording (Fania 1982)**, Lo Que Pide La Gente (Fania 1984)****, Viva La Charanga (Fania 1986)***, Live In Africa (Fania 1986)***, Live In Japan 1976 (Fania 1986)***, Bamboleo (Fania 1988)***, Guasasa (Fania 1989)**, Live In Puerto Rico, June 1994 (Fania 1995)***, Viva Colombia - En Concierto (Fania 1996)***, Bravo '97 (JMM/Sony Discos 1997)***.

Compilations:
Greatest Hits (Fania 1977)****, The Best Of The Fania All Stars (Fania 1997)****, Salsa Caliente De Nu York! (Nascente 2001)****, Qu‚ Pasa? The Best Of Fania All-Stars (Columbia/Legacy 2002)****, The Best Of Fania All Stars (Charly 2004)**.



Source: Encyclopedia of Popular Music

Music Albums

California Jam
Fania
n/a

Commitment
Fania
n/a

Delicate And Jumpy
Fania
n/a

Fania All Stars In Japan
Fania
n/a

Greatest Hits
Fania
n/a

Guasasa
Fania
n/a

Habana Jam
Fania
n/a

Latin Connection
Fania
n/a

Live
Fania
n/a

Live At Cheetah 1
Fania
n/a

Live At Cheetah 2
Fania
n/a

Live At Red Garter 1
Fania
n/a

Live At Red Garter 2
Fania
n/a

Live At Yankee Stadium 1
Fania
n/a

Live At Yankee Stadium 2
Fania
n/a

Live In Africa
Fania
n/a

Lo Que Pide La Gente
Fania
n/a

Salsa
Fania
n/a

Social Change
Fania
n/a

Spanish Fever
Fania
n/a

Tribute To Tito Rodriguez
Fania
n/a

Viva La Charanga
Fania
n/a

Vol. 1
Fania
n/a

Vol. 2
Fania
n/a

Vol. 3
Fania
n/a

Vol. 4
Fania
n/a

Vol. 5
Fania
n/a

Soneros De Ayer Y Hoy
Fania
11/04/1997

Navidad Fania
J&N Records/Fania
08/17/1999

Bravo '97
J&N Records/Fania
08/02/1997

Fania All-Stars With Celia Cruz
J&N Records/Fania
08/02/1997

Cheo Feliciano
J&N Records/Fania
08/02/1997

Fania All-Stars With Ismael Miranda
J&N Records/Fania
08/02/1997

Fania All-Stars/Pete "Conde" Rodriguez
J&N Records/Fania
08/02/1997

Que Pasa?: The Best Of The Fania All-Stars
Legacy Recordings
07/23/2002

Salsa Caliente De Nu York *
Nascente [England]
06/24/2003

Bamboleo
Charly (UK)
n/a

Latin Jazz Fusion
Charly (UK)
01/12/1993

Rhythm Machine
Legacy Recordings
03/22/1994

 
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