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Jazz Caliente: Salsa and soul with Johnny Pacheco and the Fania All-Stars

Fania All-Stars, 1980
Judy Morales
Fania Records
Fania All-Stars, 1980

Johnny Pacheco, one of the "Fathers of Salsa," died on Feb. 15. He was 85. Jazz Caliente remembers this influential and beloved Dominican musician who brought a cross-cultural phenomenon to the world.

In 1964, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Johnny Pacheco and his friend Jerry Masucci started a tiny record label called Fania. The company grew from very small beginnings (Pacheco delivered their first records personally to music stores from the trunk of his car) to become the powerhouse of Latin music known as the Motown of salsa.

"Salsa" music grew out of the 1960s Latin soul and boogaloo (Afro-Latin) movement. Fania became a movement of its own.

By 1968, Fania Records had signed a mind-boggling roster of top Latin musicians like Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon and Hector LaVoe. They decided to throw them all together in a touring and recording group called the Fania All-Stars.  

The Fania All-Stars sold out club dates and huge concert venues in Puerto Rico, Chicago and Panama, and played to an audience of more than 50,000 at Yankee Stadium in 1973. That was topped by their performance in 1974 at the 80,000-seat Stade du 20 Mai in Kinshasa, Zaire.

Changing musical fashions and business woes contributed to the end of the All-Stars, and eventually the record label was sold. The current owners have done a good job of keeping the history of the label alive, and have issued some never-before-released material.

Listen for the Fania All-Stars on Jazz Caliente this week. I'll play their version of "Viva Tirado" from the album Latin/Rock/Soul.

Here's Johnny Pacheco leading the Fania All-Stars band in Zaire, with outstanding performances by Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Hector Lavoe and Pacheco himself.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. The program is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.