La Máquina del Tiempo

Cortijo y Su Máquina del Tiempo

album cover

A Monstrously Inventive Time Machine

When he recorded this, the timbale master Rafael Cortijo was already regarded as a key catalyst of Puerto Rican music, a veteran known for his revitalization of the traditional bomba and plena rhythms as well as the outright fire breathed by his combo. Cortijo (1928–1982) knew how to make people dance, but he was also an adventurer, and for this project he teamed up with young musicians (many from the University of Puerto Rico) who were intent on taking the island nation's folklore rhythms to previously unexplored plateaus.

The result is one of the most imaginative cross-genre eruptions in Latin music history. From the opening "Carnaval," it's clear the rhythm is going to be anything but conventional: It's set in plena pulse, but with a river of samba running through it. Somehow Cortijo's rhythm team synchronizes the two styles, to the point where the focus is on the heat generated by the various soloists and not the astonishing novelty of the mash-up. Highly recommended for: anyone who's had enough conventional son, salsa, or plena; those curious about how Latin musicians responded to the new horizons of jazz fusion; any and all thrill seekers.

Genre: World, Puerto Rico
Released: 1974, Musical Productions
Key Tracks: "Carnaval," "Gumbo," "De coco y anís."
Catalog Choice: Bueno, y que?
Next Stop: Ismael Rivera: Sonero no. 1
After That: Eddie Palmieri: La perfecta
Book Page: 190

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