Trumpeter Ortiz is a prominent dance band and arranger working out of Puerto Rico. In the 60s, he led a 14 to 16-piece orchestra, called All Star Band, and recorded with them on the Ramso and Remo labels. At the time, the dance band’s ‘extreme youth’ attracted comment. Mario participated in Kako’s 1963 Latin jam session recording, Puerto Rican All-Stars Featuring Kako, and in the 70s Puerto Rico All Stars albums. Also in the 70s, he wrote arrangements for Roberto Roena’s band Apollo Sound and recorded for El Gran Combo’s EGC label. In the first half of the 80s Mario appeared on four albums by dance band Willie Rosario. Ortiz signed to Ralph Cartagena’s Rico Records. His 1984 hit on the label, Vamos A Gozar, was exceptional. The 13-piece band on the album comprised of three trumpets, two saxophones (alto and tenor), bass, piano, timbales, bongo, conga and three vocalists. Mario wrote all the arrangements and played trumpet, as did his son, Mario Ortiz Jnr., who sessions widely on the Puerto Rican recording scene. Anthony Cruz (b. 5 January 1965, New Jersey, USA) and Primi Cruz shared the lead vocals. Gilberto Santa Rosa acted as artistic assistant on the album, and on four of Ortiz’s other releases between 1985 and 1990; he also sang in the chorus on this album and all of Mario’s records issued during the same period.
Baritone saxophone and a fourth trumpet were added to Mario’s band on Ritmo Y Sabor in 1985. Ernesto Sánchez began his tenure as Ortiz’s regular baritone saxophonist on 1986’s Dejenme Soñar!, and contributed a few arrangements to subsequent albums. Sánchez sessioned outside the band and worked extensively as an arranger, mainly in the salsa romántica vein. He arranged Lalo Rodríguez’s enormous 1988 Latin hit ‘Ven Devorame Otra Vez’, and wrote arrangements for Eddie Santiago, Andy Montañez, Paquito Guzmán, Oscar D’León, Amilcar Boscan, Pupy Santiago, David Pabón, Rubby Haddock, Frankie Ruiz, Grupo Clase, Héctor Tricoche, Vitín Ruiz, and others. In 1986, Ortiz and El Gran Combo leader, Rafael Ithier, co-produced Gilberto Santa Rosa’s solo debut Good Vibrations. Mario contributed arrangements to this album and Santa Rosa’s next two releases. 1987’s Algo Diferente was Primi Cruz’s last album with Ortiz before he left to join Willie Rosario’s band. Nelson Rodríguez joined as a third vocalist (lead and chorus) on the same album. Cruz’s vacancy was filled by Luigi Valentín on Sexy Salsa (1988). Rodríguez was replaced by Roberto Dávila, who sang the hit title track of the Puerto Rican Top 10 album, Que Sera De Mi?, in 1990. Anthony Cruz departed to go solo and had a big hit with Algo Nuevo, released on Tony Moreno’s Musical Productions label. For 1991’s The Trumpet Man, Ortiz radically rejigged his front-line to two trumpets, two trombones and baritone saxophone. Vocalist José David replaced Cruz and Dominican merengue star, Bonny Cepeda, sang and composed one track. Ortiz played trumpet with La Puertorriqueña, a Puerto Rican all-star gathering co-ordinated by dance band/timbales player Don Perignon for Festival De Soneros (1990). During the 80s and at the beginning of the 90s, Mario wrote arrangements for artists and bands, such as: Julio Castro, Conjunto Clásico, Puerto Rican Power, Pedro Conga, Tony Vega, José Alberto and Ray De La Paz.