The Lebrón Brothers are one of New York, USA salsa’s most original and distinctive sounding bands. They were formed in the mid-60s and co-led by José Lebrón (piano, arranger, composer, lead and chorus singer) and Angel Lebrón (bass, arranger, composer, lead and chorus singer/cuatro - which is a small 10-string guitar). The brothers were born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York City, USA. The band made their recording debut in 1967 when the R&B/Latin-fusion style called boogaloo was at the height of its popularity, and the bands of Ricardo Ray, Joe Cuba, Pete Rodríguez, Johnny Colón and others, were having hits with their recordings. The Lebrón’s repertoire continued to feature a mixture of Latin numbers and R&B/soul orientated tunes with English lyrics. Pablo sang Spanish lead vocals with the band until 1988, when unfortunately he suffered a heart attack. In addition to ‘Mala Suerte’, their debut album contained the hit boogaloos ‘Summertime Blues’ (aka ‘Funky Blues’) and ‘Tall Tale’. Goldner, who co-owned Cotique, produced the Lebrón’s first five albums on the label.
In an interview with Max Salazar, Angel made this comment about the demise of boogaloo: ‘The boogaloo era came to an end when we threatened to rebel against the package deals’. On the same theme, another star of the period, King Nando (Fernando Rivera) recounted: ‘... It was killed off by envious old band leaders, a few dance promoters and a popular Latin music disc jockey. We were the hottest bands and we drew the crowds. But we were never given top billing or top dollar. The boogaloo band leaders were forced to accept package deals which had us hopping all over town... one hour here, one hour there... for small change. When word got out that we were going to unite and no longer accept the package deals, our records were no longer played over the radio. The boogaloo era was over and so were the careers of most of the boogaloo band leaders’. However, the Lebrón Brothers managed to outlive the brief late 60s craze for boogaloo, which many Latin musicians detested and only recorded to keep in fashion. The Lebrón’s fourth release, Brother, marked a ‘promotion in the ranks’ for brother Carlos (bongo, vocals, trap drums, timbales, composer and tres - which is a six or nine-string Cuban guitar), who was pictured alongside José and Angel on the front cover of the record sleeve. The classic hit title-track of Salsa Y Control, was cited by Venezuelan salsa authority, César Miguel Rondon, as being one of the factors contributing to the use of the word ‘salsa’ (sauce) as a descriptive term for Latin music. The expression ‘salsa y control’ also designates the swinging, yet restrained style the Lebron’s have made their speciality. Ironically, the song was not representative of this. José arranged and conducted Pablo’s solo release Pablo, which mainly contained slow romantic numbers.
Cotique was taken over by Fania Records, and one of the top stars on their roster at the time, Larry Harlow, produced the Lebrón Brothers Asunto De Familia in 1973. Conga playing brother Frank, was ‘promoted’ to the front cover of this album. Fania’s co-founder, Johnny Pacheco, produced the band’s three albums between 1975 and 1978. This included one of their best, 10th Anniversary, which contained the smash hit ‘Disco Bailable’ - allegedly this song was a ‘filler-track’ composed by José in a subway train on the way to the studio. The Lebron’s final release on Cotique, Criollo, was another fine album. After a gap of three years, the Lebrón Brothers switched to Sergio Bofill and Humberto Corredor’s Caimán Records for their recording comeback Salsa Lebrón in 1986. Pablo was replaced on this album by young lead vocalist Frankie Morales (ex-Los Amigos And The Bad Street Boys). The record was even more of a family affair than usual. Young Adrian and Angel Jnr. joined the band on trombone and percussion, respectively. Angel’s daughter Nadine played piano on her father’s composition ‘La Niña’. Regular Libre and Ray Barretto, trombonist Jimmy Bosch, joined the horn section. Bobby Rodríguez, on the Caimán roster at the time, played flute on ‘Amores De Ayer’. The title track featured a medley of the Lebron’s earlier hits. Morales split acrimoniously with the band and went on to perform with his own outfit. His albums include: En Su Punto (1987) on Caimán, and Sobresaliendo/Standing Out (1989) on Corredor’s El Abuelo label.
Pablo returned in 1988 for his last appearance on El Boso, which was the first release on the new El Abuelo label. Bosch was back in the brass section joined by veteran trumpeter Alfredo ‘Chocolate’ Armenteros. For their second release in 1988, Loco Por Ti, the lead vocals were shared by Angel, José, Carlos and Enrique Estupiñan, who was one of the album’s four executive producers. In 1990, Estupiñan was joined by José Luis Ayala as co-lead singer on Salsa En El Paraiso Con Los Lebrón, which was recorded in Cali, Colombia. Vocalist/composer Ayala was a former member of the band Saoco and recorded with Eddie Palmieri and Alfredo Rodríguez.