It's hard to tell whether Representante de la Salsa should be classified as "Latin jazz" or "Latin dance." While the eleven tracks presented by electric violinist/vocalist Susie Hansen and her tight band certainly possess plenty of potent improvisation and rhythmic excitabilityboth hallmarks of the best Latin jazzthe music leans toward more traditional Latin dance styles and is heavy on vocals. As if to drive this point home, Hansen labels each track, identifying the dance styles, such as mambo, or salsa. In the end, regardless of genre-specific classification, Hansen's music carries a certain charm that rests with the ability to elicit a foot-tapping and hip-shaking response.
On the opening title track, Hansen's first solo demonstrates a narrow and focused tone, though elsewhere on the albummost notably on the burning "Si No Contigo"her sound is a bit richer and more vibrant. Vocalist George Balmaseda is featured on the first two album tracks and he appropriately exudes a certain amount of machismo during these performances, occasionally sounding like Marc Anthony but with more heft. "Vehicle," a staple of '70s rock radio, features Kaspar Abbo's passionate vocals and then, unexpectedly, morphs into a scintillating Spanish-language stew, with some group vocals and appealing horn lines.
Standards make their way onto the album in the form of a Frank Sinatra tribute ("Frank Sinatra Cha Cha Cha") and "Beyond The Sea," both delivered in English. Balmaseda, Hansen and Abbo each have an opportunity to sing on the Sinatra medley, which covers "Fly Me to the Moon," "It Could Happen to You," "It Had to Be You" and "All of Me"; the results are largely positive.
While Hansen is obviously the featured instrumentalist on a large part of this material, the other standout soloist is pianist Joe Rotondi, his playing on "Las Calles de Chicago" and "Si No Contigo" lifting the music to new heights. The little touches that he adds elsewhere add authentic stylistic detail to each exhilarating performance on this album.
Track Listing: Representante de la Salsa; Te Quiero, Te Amo; Vehicle; Frank Sinatra
Cha Cha; No Te Metas Conmigo; Si No Contigo; I Want to Love You; Si
Me Vas a Querer; Las Calles de Chicago; Beyond the Sea; Y Sigue
Personnel: Susie Hansen: electric violin, lead vocals, background vocals; George
Balmaseda: lead vocals, background vocals; Kaspar Abbo: lead vocals,
background vocals; David Stout: trombone; Tim Messina: tenor
saxophone, flute; Joe Rotondi: piano; Rene Camacho: bass, background
vocals; Jimmy Branly: timbales; Joe De Leon: congas; Erich Bulling:
background vocals; Ricardo "Tiki" Pasillas: bongos, hand percussion.