Latin Music Album: “Salsa de la Bahia” CD Review


This is a rare Latin music gem! “Salsa de la Bahia” is a concept album that captures the great Latin music played by bands in the San Francisco Bay Area. This album is part of a documentary about Salsa music and dance, and I consider it a treat for Salsa and Latin music lovers everywhere!

The quality of the “Salsa de la Bahia” project is so good I’ve been debating where to start to tell you about it. Because of the amount of good music in the Bay Area, this is a 2-CD set, featuring 13 bands that include Orestes Vilató, John Santos, Louie Romero, Jesus Diaz, John Calloway, and Benny Velarde, among others.

The information about the “Salsa de la Bahia” project is so abundant and good, that I will “borrow” some of it during this blog. Like for example, to explain the music of the album, the website says….”The fact that all of the bands featured on the CD are active, save for the Machete Ensemble, speaks to the scene’s vitality. At the same time, all the music, except for the three Estrellas De La Bahia tracks, was originally released on indie labels, which goes a long way toward explaining why so much of it stayed under the national media radar.”

"Salsa de la Bahia" is a snapshot of the Bay Area Salsa and Latin music scene today!
“Salsa de la Bahia” is a snapshot of the Bay Area Salsa and Latin music scene today!

And precisely because this music stayed mostly under the radar it explains why perhaps most of us might have not heard of it before.

This ambitious and important project was put together by Bay Area trombonist/arranger and educator Wayne Wallace, who decided to play a supporting role in this album, rather that also be featured with this band. He worked closely with filmmaker/dancer Rita Hargraves, who leads the documentary piece titled “The Last Mambo”.

What I Liked About “Salsa de la Bahia”

  • Liner Notes: I never start a CD review by saying I liked the liner notes, but these are so good I had to make an exception. The liner notes feature great notes by Jesse “Chuy” Varela, who is a musical director for a Bay Area Jazz station, and has written for the SF Chronicle, Jazz Times, Latin Beat, and other publications. He summarized part of the evolution of Salsa music, and particularly about dancing and its social impact.
  • If you are like me, and download most of your music, I strongly suggest you make an exception and get the physical CDs this time.
  • Great Salsa and Latin Music: “Salsa de la Bahia” obviously has some great Salsa music, but that’s not all. There is great Latin Jazz, Danzon, Cha Cha, Charanga, Changui, and perhaps more.
  • Pete Escovedo, also a participant in "Salsa de la Bahia" is a west coast Latin music icon.
    Pete Escovedo, also a participant in “Salsa de la Bahia” is a west coast Latin music icon.

    Fantastic Bands: Ok, there are some bands I had heard before, like Orestes Vilató and John Santos, others that I knew by name but not by music, like John Calloway and Louie Romero (with his band Mazacote), and then others that I never even heard the name, like Avance and Anthony Blea. It’s amazing how many good groups are there in the Bay Area.

  • Great Sound Quality: although the music used for “Salsa en la Bahia” was mostly previously recorded on other labels, the sound of the project is uniform and of great quality. It almost seems that all groups recorded in the same studio.

What I Didn’t Like About “Salsa de la Bahia”

errrr…I know I always pride myself in looking for something that could have been done better in every recording I review in order to maintain some objectivity on the review and not be biased, but I can’t come up with anything for this one! Ok, I’ll say it, I may be biased on this one! I love the music and the concept!

My Recommendation of “Salsa de la Bahia”

"Salsa de la Bahia" is the soundtrack for the upcoming documentary of Bay Area Latin music titled "The Last Mambo"
“Salsa de la Bahia” is the soundtrack for the upcoming documentary of Bay Area Latin music titled “The Last Mambo”

From what you have read so far it’s obvious that I loved “Salsa de la Bahia”. Some of the traditional Cuban music sounds really authentic, the Salsa music by the bands I didn’t know before is fantastic, and the Latin Jazz is top notch!

“Salsa de la Bahia” will not only get you familiarized with the great music of the bands in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also has a nice booklet with liner notes that provide a little history about the Salsa and Latin music scene in San Francisco, as well as of the bands featured in these albums.

Oh yes, and this is Volume 1. Can’t wait for Vol. 2!!!

  1. James freeman says

    Would you please be so kind to help me find Volume 1 of the Alegre All Stars (about 1961)or tell me to look (vinyl , CD or tape is just find),

    Thank you very much.

    Jim Freeman

    1. Hector Aviles says

      Hi James,
      I will keep an eye for the Alegre All Stars Volume 1. Right now I wouldn’t know where to get that Alergre All Stars album.


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