Bio Ritmo Take a Great Nuyorican Sound to New Places

by delarue

Isn’t it cool that a great salsa band from out of town is playing their upcoming New York show in Bushwick? Sure, reggaeton long ago replaced salsa as the sound you’d be most likely to hear in the neighborhood – at least until the invasion of prissy trust fund kids and their insufferably inept indie bands. It’ll be interesting to see how many neighborhood people who haven’t been priced out yet come out for Bio Ritmo‘s show on June 28 at 8 PM at Radio Bushwick.

The Richmond-based band have made a career out of keeping the psychedelic sound of the early 70s Fania bands alive. They’ve got a new album, Puerta del Sur, due out later this summer; their most recent trip into the studio resulted in La Verdad, an album of “trippy, hypnotic, sometimes fiery elements of Ethiopian jazz, Afrobeat and dub,” as New York Music Daily’s sister blog, Lucid Culture reported back in late 2011.

Most recently, the group has reissued their similarly psychedelic 1995 debut, Introducing Bio Ritmo, which includes a couple of bonus tracks from La Verdad: the wryly tuneful, funk-tinged title cut, and La Muralla, pairing echoey Fender Rhodes electric piano against a blazing horn section. It’s inspiring to hear how ambitious the band was – remember, this was back when the internet was barely more than Amazon and the Well and people still bought albums in stores. Keyboardist/bandleader Marlysse Simmons is already showing signs here that she’ll become one of the alltime great noir players (she’d really blossom later on with the creepy boleros of Bio Ritmo side project Miramar), most notably with her spiraling, menacing piano chromatics on the eleventh track here, Asia Minor.

Among the best cuts on the album, there’s the bristling El Piraguero, with its shout-outs to Puerto Rican pride; the slow, slinky original version of Lola’s Dilemma, which they’d reprise with dub echoes on La Verdad; the seven-minute Muchacho, with its dark horns and alternately playful and sternly intense piano from Simmons; Lisandra, which spices a blend of early 70s salsa dura and 80s salsa romantica with woozy P-Funk keys; and Tu No Sabes, a stinging early venture into the Middle Eastern sounds the band has explored at greater length throughout their career. Simmons, singer Rei Alvarez, percussionists Hector “Coco” Barez, Bob Miller and Giustino Riccio, trumpeter Mark Ingraham, tenor saxophonist John Lilley, trombonist Toby Whitaker and bassist Edward Prendergast are on fire throughout the rest of the material. Since then they’ve never slowed down.