The Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino made only two records–Concepts in Unity (1975) and Lo Dice Todo (1976) –but both are classics of the 1970’s New York salsa scene. The recordings came out of jam sessions held in Andy and Jerry Gonzalez’s basement in the Bronx (I’m imagining the Latin version of Minton’s Playhouse), and they have that spirit to them: open, loose, with a lot of space for supremely talented musicians to do their thing.
I found Lo dice todo a few months ago, and have been listening to it over and over ever since. It was hard to pick out a track to post, but I finally settled on the rumba version of the old bolero “Se me olvidó”. It’s the one I just can’t shake. The opening is so spare, so melancholy, and I love how Virgilio Martí’s voice just glides over, under, and around Alfredo de la Fe‘s violin. And then it just builds and builds.
Apparently, I’m not the only one obsessed with this song. It’s just one of those that gets under your skin, which is why so many artists have tried their hand at it. I did a quick search and found plenty of covers, some better, some worse: Manu Chao, Bebo y Cigala, Roberto Ledesma, or this mariachi version by Francisco Lara from a Mexican telenovela I hope never to see (tequila shots taken with a scowl only add to the atmspherics.)
Another banger from Lo dice todo is Au Meu Lugar Voltar, an intriguing mix of salsa and samba rhythms, composed by Brazilian trombonist Jose Rodriguez, and featuring Ubatan do Nascimento on vocals. Nice.
FYI: Souljazz Records put out a collection called Nu Yorica! a few years back, featuring “Anabacoa”, a track from Concepts in Unity, and both of the Grupo’s albums are now available on CD. But the best news of all is that they’re performing again, so keep an eye out.