Eddie Pérez and El Gran Combo De Puerto Rico
When Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Eddie Pérez died last week at the age of 77, the salsa world mourned the loss of a key member of one of the music's longest running outfits -- El Gran Combo De Puerto Rico, which celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. Pérez was one of only two surviving original members, the other being pianist Rafael Ithier, the band's founder. Enormously popular throughout Latin America and boasting a passionate following in New York's salsa scene, El Gran Combo didn't vary their approach much over the years (the 1971 addition of a trombone player was considered a major change in sound). That conservatism might help explain their consistency across more than 40 albums; if you like one of their albums, you'll probably like many more.
Here's a five-decade journey through all the highlights of Puerto Rico's greatest dance band, from 1962's "Meneame los Mangos" through 2010's "Sin Salsa No Hay Paraíso." In between, listen for such classics as "Don Goyo," "Un Verano en Nueva York," and "El Menu." And watch out for a batch of boogaloo tunes from the late 1960s, when the New York-spawned craze for such material infected even these stalwart traditionalists.