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Virgen de la Caridad

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Album Review

Bay area violin prodigy Anthony Blea is still a relative unknown on the international salsa scene. With the release of his debut record Virgen de la Caridad that may not be true for long. Not all salsa bandleaders start their careers with a full scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Fewer go on to study at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Blea is a standout in a flourishing scene. San Francisco is quite a salsa hot spot, boasting some of the genre's heaviest players and a number of solid record labels. It seems that New York winters were insufferable to the Cuban music elite, so the Bay Area now boasts a large number of salsa/Latin jazz pioneers. Their presence raises the stakes significantly; enter Anthony Blea. With a traditional flute/violin charanga lineup, adding horns for extra weight, Anthony Blea y Su Charanga are right in line with international salsa/timba trends. Though leaning towards the traditional on a few tracks (son and danzon), this group seems most alive when flexing its timba muscles. Timbalero Carlos Caro stands out as a player with modern flare and attitude. Blea himself is clearly a masterful arranger. Each track is well crafted, dripping with inventive musical ideas, gracefully executed. Blea's solo work, though scarce, is powerful. He comes through as a player/leader with skill and maturity. Anthony Blea y Su Charanga are a credit to the U.S. salsa scene, and Virgen de la Caridad would be a delicious addition to any fan's collection. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez, Rovi

Virgen de la Caridad, Anthony Blea Y Su Charanga
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