Jose Lugo “Guasabara” a Step Ahead with “Donde Estan”


This is not the classic Salsa music sound of the ’70s, but old-school Salseros will likely find the music of Guasabara exciting. This is not Salsa Romantica nor Pop-Salsa, but this might spike the interest of fans of the more contemporary style of Salsa.


Jose Lugo with Bobby Valentin
Puerto Rican pianist-bandleader Jose Lugo learned his Salsa chops with Salsa maestro Bobby Valentin.

I was looking forward to the next album from one of the most progressive Salsa bands today, and Guasabara did not disappoint with “Donde Estan“.


Guasabara Combo Continues Progressive Salsa Sound

Gusabara’s founder and director Jose Lugo (“Luguito”) has innovated a sound that combines elements of classic Salsa (which he learned first-hand early on by playing with maestros like Bobby Valentin), and Romantic-pop Salsa, with the basic swing of Timba, to create a sound that is aggressive and yet easy to casual Salsa listener.

It’s a formula that mixes well with old-style Salsa urban lyrics, as well as with Romantic ones, and can easily go from a Salsa dance swing, to a Merengue beat, as well as into a Latin Jazz. And Luguito can make all of this happen with just a handful of musicians.

This is the 3rd album for Jose Lugo’s Guasabara. Unlike the 1st album, which was an excellent display of what can be done with a big band format and great guest singers and musicians, the last two albums have been more in the “combo” format.

Guasabara Combo is perhaps “Luguito’s” practical evolution to perform his progressive Salsa style of music, in a smaller combo where he can more easily find gigs that will allow him to meet payroll.

Donde Estan” Has Versatility and Danceable Swing

Jose Lugo and Guasabara in "Donde Estan" Salsa album cover
“Donde Estan” is Guasabara’s 3rd recording, fine tuning their progressive Salsa style with every album.

Released in January 2016, “Donde Estan” is Lugo’s follow-up to “Poetic Justic” (2011), which was the album that marked Guasabara’s new Salsa sound.

Within the 12 tracks, you will find danceable Salsa, like the album’s 1st single and title track “Donde Estan“. From there, the album continues a solid track of songs, with old and new songs alike.

Famed Salsa Romantica Cuban author Jorge Luis Piloto contributes a couple of songs, and Luguito goes to the classic archives to perform a new version of “La Princesa” (previously recorded by Rafael Cortijo and Orquesta Mulenze), which provides a window into Lugo’s innovative brain.

Cortijo’s version of “La Princesa” was in Plena beat, while Mulenze’s was in form of Merengue. Lugo’s version provides glimpses of both, Plena and Merengue, with the help of master Conguero Giovanni Hidalgo, who navigates the rhythm daiquiri with his characteristic smoothness.

For the Latin Jazz piece “Taino“, Jose Lugo brings his Venezuelan colleague at piano Luis Perdomo in the Wurlitzer synthesizer.

Guasabara’s mostly unknown singers JoseMa Lugo (Lugo’s son, so would that make him “Luguitito”?) and Luis Omar Sanabria, do a solid performance in the vocals, with the backup of Salsa veterans Lalo Rodriguez, Pichie Perez, and Ricky Villanueva in the coros.

Guasabara’s musicians are:

Jan Duclerc in Guasabara brass section
Veteran trumpeter extraordinaire Jan Duclerc leads the unusual brass section of trumpet, flugelhorn, and sax, not common in a Salsa band.

Jan Duclerc – Trompeta

Abdel Rivera – Flugel Horn

Felito Rodríguez – Tenor Sax

Pablo Padin – Timbal/Drums & Bongo

Luisier Rivera – Conga

Jorge Rodriguez – bajo

José M. Lugo – piano y sintetizado

Guasabara’s “Donde Estan” is a Salsa Gem

Jose Lugo, with his innovative arrangements, creates a full sound with a band of 7 musicians + 2 singers.

I found Guasabara’s sound to be fresh yet dance-inspired Salsa, which should delight the musical taste of a wide range of Salsa fans. I certainly enjoyed this album!

Guasabara Performs “Donde Estan” (Video):

Here’s a good look at Guasabara in action, performing their title song.

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