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Grupo Fascinacion

This exciting young New York salsa band of the 80s was characterized by good musicianship, enthusiastic attack and some great arrangements. Their 10-piece line-up comprised of vocals (lead and chorus), rhythm section and a frontline of three trumpets and baritone saxophone (with some doubling on flügelhorn and flute). They recorded only three albums between 1983 and 1986 - all on Ralph Cartagena’s Rico Records. The band’s lead singer for four years was New York born Johnny Rivera. His parents came from Ciales, Puerto Rico and he is the nephew of the prominent salsa vocalist Adalberto Santiago, who encouraged him to pursue a musical career. Rivera worked previously with Los Rodríguez. After Fascinación’s final release Salsa Vice, on which he shared lead vocals with Alfredo ‘Tito’ González, he left the band to join Conjunto Clásico. Following two albums with Clásico, Johnny signed with Ralph Mercado’s RMM label and made his solo debut with the successful Y Ahora De Verdad in 1990. In 1991, he appeared at the second part of the New York Salsa Festival. Playing bongo and cowbell with Fascinación on their debut, Fascinating Sounds, was Richie Bastar, the son of Puerto Rican percussionist/band leader Kako. He was replaced by Sammy ‘Timbalón’ Pagán on the 1985 follow-up Tiburón. Experienced accompanist Eddie Montalvo took over on conga on 1986’s Salsa Vice. In addition to playing baritone saxophone, founder member Vincent Vélez Jnr. wrote arrangements for Fascinación. Pianist Roberto Navarro, worked previously as the musical director of the band Guarare on Onda Típica in 1981. Navarro teamed up with José ‘Kokie’ Colón, a composer and guitarist who possessed another vital ingredient: money. They organized the band Típica ’88, which included Tito González, Eddie Montalvo, Sammy Pagán and three other members of Fascinación’s personnel, for En La Feria De La “Salsa” in 1988. Colón wrote all the songs and Navarro handled arranging, production, musical direction and keyboard chores. The outcome was an excellent album. Trombonist Joe de Jesús, who studied at the City College of New York with Navarro, was hired for the recording session, which he later described as ‘swinging’. De Jesus’ track record includes stints and/or sessions with Rafael Cortijo and Kako, Ray Barretto, Guarare, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Adalberto Santiago, Hansel And Raúl, Los Vecinos, Camilo Azuquita and David Byrne. Apart from Navarro, the only former Fascinación members remaining with Típica ’88 on their 1989 lacklustre follow-up It Feels So Good! were Montalvo and trumpeter Lionel Román.
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