Like father, like son | Bleader

Like father, like son

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Few groups in any style have endured like Puerto Rican salsa vets El Gran Combo. Pianist Rafael Ithier, who founded the band in 1962, still leads it today, and while they're hardly cutting edge, they're no nostalgic act either, always employing an excellent crew of musicians. When they stop in at Ravinia on Thursday as part of their 45th-anniversary tour, they'll be joined by opening act NG2, a group I initially mistook for a generic Latino boy band (check out the faux-hawks and carefully manicured stubble of singers Gerardo Rivas and Norberto Velez on the cover of their recent album, ¡Al Fin!). But NG2 is actually first-rate, hard-hitting salsa that mostly steers clear of the treacle too many artists opt for these days. Even when they start out with a ballad like "No Me Perdones," it's not long before they shift into overdrive. Rivas is the son of long-time El Gran Combo cantante Jerry Rivas, and both Rivas hijo and Velez used to work with star sonero Victor Manuelle. The pair seem to have a strong rapport out front, singing choruses together in tight harmony before alternating verses, and the most exciting parts of the songs are when they ad lib with one another.

Today's playlist:

Leny Andrade, Leny Andrade (1975) (Odeon)
Stoner + Forss + Borg, The Lektor Tapes (Hoob Jazz)
Various Artists, Songs From the Steppes: Kazakh Music Today (Topic)
Yuji Takahashi, Plays John Cage: Sonatas and Interludes Vol. 1 (Fylkingen)
Trio Kavkasia, The Fox and the Lion (Traditional Crossroads)
 

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