Richmond, Virginia’s Bio Ritmo have always beenahead of the curve when it comes to making original salsa that appeals to both the head and the heart. For the last couple of decades, their music has been a refreshing alternative to the brand of “Teflon” salsamade today by a lot of artists (you know, that horribly bland, overly commercial, or overly conservative style that seems to get major label support still). Their latest full-length, Puerta Del Sur (Vampisoul 2014) is their best yet and stretches their approach to even higher ground.They occasionally do a cover tune, usually from a source that has long been an inspiration to the band. In the past, everyone from Roger King Mozian (“AsiaMinor”) to Bobby Valentín (“Sigues Critcando”) hasbeen fodder for the Bio Ritmo treatment. Now it’s Cortijo y su combo’s turn, with the iconic Oriza. But there the band take the frenetic Santeria/bomba hybrid of Ismael Rivera and Cortijo’s seminal version of the Silvestre Méndez tropical standard and slow things down for a funky cumbia, in a nod to both their Colombian fans and a successful attempt at putting a “nuevo ritmo”(new rhythm) to the song, just as the lyrics suggest. The intro starts with an old timey feel,as vocalist (and album cover artist) Rei Álvarez doesa humorous Spanglish transmutation of the inimitable Ismael Rivera over a posse of growling wah-wah muted trumpets. Pianist Marlysse Simmons brings not only some super fun synths but also debuts her backing vocals in an excellent tribute to the classic Cortijo sound of the “coro de voz femenina” (falsetto chorus) made famous by saxophonist Eddie “LaBala” Pérez. The tune also has an amazing montuno bridge that is pure salsa, where the trumpets let loose. The rhythm, led by timbalero Giustino Riccioand conguero Héctor “Coco” Barez, is tight as ever. Recorded at the same time as Puerta Del Sur but left off the album, “Oriza” might not have seen the light of day on vinyl if the Peace & Rhythm crew had not suggested they save it from purgatory and co-release it post haste. Over all, a monster booty-shaking number guaranteed to get the party moving whether you dig salsa or not. The B-side features a dope dancefloor rework by the Whiskey Barons with Bosq on mini-Moog for an extra-added stanky skank to the beat. And the whole thing’s wrapped in super freaky cover art featuring the orisha Eleggua towering above the post-industrial landscape of Richmond, VA, like some B-movie monster from Silvestre’s nightmares.
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