• My Latin Thing

    March 13, 2008

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Netflix is now as much a part of my life as espresso or Google or my bike. Sadly, I rarely go to the movies anymore (or to the cinema for that matter). There are a million reasons for that, and that's not the point of this post, anyway. Netflix has a lot of the movies my video store doesn't. This week, that included "Our Latin Thing," the documentary of the Fania All Stars.At the center of the film is the insanely raucous music from a group that has no real parallel in music. Imagine a jazz group consisting of Monk, Mingus, Miles, Coltrane, Diz, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hartman, with arrangements by Quincy Jones, under the direction of Duke Ellington. The Fania All Stars is kinda like that, only for salsa music. This film, shot in 1972, captures Salsa in its earliest manifestations and confirms that, while it is Latino at its core, it is, in the end, American music.

    You can judge the music for yourself in the clip below, but what is as striking as the music in this film is how it captures Latino New York, circa 1972, warts and all. Marvel at how routinely filthy the streets of New York were then. Cringe at the obvious cheesecake shots from the randy cameraman. Let your jaw drop at the totally gross basement cock fight (captured from opening bell to ignoble end). This is a raw, unfiltered look at the Nueva Yawk of my youth, from junkies, to drunks, to bad-ass dancers in skin-tight hot pants!

    Ray Barretto's here, as are Hector Lavoe, Willy Colon, Johnny Pacheco, El Condo, Santo Colon, Larry Harlowe and "the Spanish-speaking people of New York City." As a piece of history, this is an invaluable find for a cultural anthropologist, and as a concert film, it will shake your maraca. David Cruz

     

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