Jon Otis - percussion, vocals; David Margen - bass, vocals, percussion; Jeff Narell - steel drums, vocals, percussion; "One Drop" Scott Rasulala - steel drums, percussion, vocals; Marc Roberts - steel drums; Butch Haynes - congas; Juan Carlos - bongos; Dan Regan - trombone, trumpet; Marc Baum - alto and tenor saxophone; Guest: Mingo Lewis - congas, bongos, percussion
The Bay Area has always embraced musical diversity. A strong salsa dance scene developed in San Francisco and was in full swing by the mid-1960s. San Franciscans enjoyed many hot Latin-style salsa nights and a wide spectrum of high energy Latin dance music because clubs like Cesar's hosted many of the top Latin musicians of the day and a healthy community of dancers. The monumental commercial success of Santana in the early 1970s greatly fueled the already thriving scene and provided inspiration to a whole new generation of aspiring Latin musicians. Many new Latin bands emerged in San Francisco during this era, including Azteca, Malo and Salsa de Berkeley. These groups incorporated classic Latin rhythms (derived from the cha cha cha, cumbias, boleros, Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban music) and added contemporary pop, rock and dance stylings into the mix.
This 1974 live recording from KSAN's "Live At The Record Plant" series is perhaps the finest existing document of Salsa de Berkeley performing. With a wide range of South American rhythms, this is fiery music from beginning to end. As an added bonus, legendary percussionist Mingo Lewis sits in for the entire set, adding even more intensity to the percussion-heavy ensemble. All of these compositions contain passionate and intense interplay, with the first half of the set being a virtual travelogue through South America. One of the many early highlights is an extraordinary take on Eddie Palmieri's "Puerto Rico" which is blazing with creative energy. The set takes a more contemporary approach beginning with "Bird Of Beauty," a Stevie Wonder cover, before eventually concluding with an infectious improvisation that allows everyone to stretch out and flex their musical muscles.
Whether playing hot and sexy salsa or more exotic forms, the music contained in this remarkable recording is thoroughly contagious. The skill of these musicians is undeniable and this performance by Salsa de Berkeley is overflowing with a passion for music and life.