Charlie Montoyo’s Classic Salsa

Durham Herald-Sun. December 21, 2014.  (Thanks to Carl Rist for the image).

Durham Herald-Sun. December 21, 2014. (Thanks to Carl Rist for the image).

All of us in Durham continue adjusting to news of Bulls’ manager Charlie Montoyo’s promotion to the coaching staff of the Tampa Bay Rays.  The depth of his impact is measured by the mix of elation and loss many feel.  Yesterday the Bulls took out this full-page ad in the Herald-Sun to thank Charlie.  His listed achievements speak for themselves.

A couple of years ago I was working on a piece about Charlie for Paris Review Daily (“Field Notes,” August 20, 2012, a version of this piece is in the Bull City Summer book).  I gave him a copy of my 2009 book, The Jazz Loft Project, in an effort to introduce myself.  Charlie told me he was a music nut, and that he owned a variety of percussion instruments that he played in his garage everyday.  He told me that he took daily five-mile runs listening to salsa from his native Puerto Rico.  A few nights later, as I was walking out of Charlie’s office underneath the DBAP after his routine post-game meeting with media, he gestured, “Sam, I’ve got something for you.”   He handed me a CD mix he’d made featuring some of his favorite bands.

Here are the track titles and artists:

1. La Preoccupacion.  El Gran Combo.

2. Duaguango del Gran Combo.  El Gran Combo.

3. Todo Tiene Su Cinco.  Hector Lavoe.

4. Loco.  Hector Lavoe.

5. Ahora Si.  Ismael Maranda.

6. Traigo Salsa.  Ismael Rivera.

7. Cumbanchero.  Ismael Rivera.

8. Pa Pravo Yo.  Justo Betencourt.

9. En Memorie Un Hermano.  Raphy Leavitt.

10. Catalina La Lo.  Pete Conde Rodriguez.

11. Juene Beyone.  Sonora Poncena.

12. Prende el Fagan.  Sonora Poncena.

A week later, I told Charlie that I’d been enjoying the CD, and I asked him a few questions about certain bands.  A few days later he gave me several more CD’s and a few DVD’s.  I cranked this music over this past weekend.  There is something about salsa’s hypnotic repetition and hard swing, particularly the percussion, that may bear itself out in Charlie’s manner and leadership.  You can’t play this music well without tremendous rigor applied to the craft, repeatedly, but it’s also fun, and everybody is given an opportunity to play, which must be seized.


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