My peripheral involvement in Bob Belden’s Miles Español project has refired a longstanding interest in music that combines Latin and jazz elements. A story by Larry Rohter in today’s New York Times added more fuel. It is about the restoration and DVD release of a film that played an influential role in bringing widespread attention to Latin music and, in particular, to the brand of salsa cooked up in New York’s Latin melting pot. Rohter begins by quoting the master percussionist Ray Barretto about his hopes for the film’s success in raising awareness. Then, he writes:
In 1971 Latin music barely existed on the margins of American consciousness. But Mr. Barretto, who died in 2006 at 76, was prescient. If salsa is today a globally popular and influential dance music style, that is due in no small part to “Our Latin Thing,” which documents a concert by the Fania All-Stars at the Cheetah club on 52nd Street in Manhattan on Aug. 26, 1971, and the chain of events it set in motion.
In the history of salsa music and Fania Records, which for many years were all but synonymous, “Our Latin Thing” and the Cheetah show occupy a singular position. It took another Fania All-Stars concert, this time for a crowd of more than 45,000 people at Yankee Stadium in 1973, to alert mainstream English-speaking America to the vast commercial potential of the Latin music market, but it was the Cheetah performance that may have been the ensemble’s artistic pinnacle.
The article includes an embedded performance excerpt from the “Our Latin Thing” film. To read it, go here.