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SpanishEnglishJoey Altruda Presents: El Gran Fellove

CD Review: Joey Altruda Presents: El Gran Fellove 
Avocaudio October 7, 2023

Review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved

Francisco Fellove Valdés (October 7, 1923 - February 15, 2013), aka El Gran Fellove, was a key member of the  early phase of the Feeling (later called Filin in some circles) movement in Cuba both as a performer and a composer.  Some of his compositions, such as Mango Mangue, became hugely popular when covered by other artists like Machito.  Although a consummate showman, his success within Cuba had limits, and like many Afrocuban musicians of his day, he left the island  (in 1955) for Mexico, which ultimately became his permanent home.  Among other things he was noted for a distinctive style called Chua Chua after the vocalese often used in place of horns, and he was an early exponent of Cuban scat singing.   

Recorded in 1999 in Mexico City and released on the 100th anniversary of Fellove's birth after sitting in the vault for many years, this project has an interesting genesis.  It is believed to be the last full studio album recorded by Fellove (although the producer tells me that some unused tracks may emerge in the future as an EP).   Its prime instigator was the actor and avid Cuban music collector, Matt Dillon, who intrroduced the producer, Joey Altruda, to Fellove's music.   They subsequently recorded this project with Fellove  and invited musicians, including some cameos by Chocolate Armenteros.  Some finishing touches were added to the project in Califormia. 

This session is a descarga project with a feel that is mostly retro (think of the Panart Cuban Jam Sessions of the 50s but with less emphasis on the  percussion section,  more extended vocals and more instrumental solo work)  with some modern touches (the beginning of Cumbia Lu sounds like it could be  the start of a timba song until abruptly changing gears, and the Hammond organ adds a nice modern touch).   Fellove himself is still full of life here. 

Most importantly, it swings.   Too many projects of this type end up overproduced and more slick than alive.  Although it  serves as a fitting celebration of the centennial of Fellove's birth, it also stands on its own merits musically. 

As a side note, Matt Dillon filmed a making of video that later morphed into a much more extensive full-length documentary about Fellove's life.   It has been previewed favorably at a couple of film festivals, and I have been advised that the ultimate objective is full commercial release. 

Track List:
1.  Cha Cha Cha De La Roqueta (Levi Pragido y Beque)
2. Descarga Chocolate (Altruda/Fellove)
3. Rareza Del Siglo (Bebo Valdés)
4. Mambo Matthias (Altruda)
5. Para Bailar Mi Salsa (aka Rapido) (Francisco Fellove Valdés)
6. Te Quiero Corazon  (Arturo Castro)
7. Para Chango Te Levante (Francisco Fellove Valdes)
8. Como Usted (Agustin Martínez)
9. La Cita (Altruda)
10.  Cumbia-Lu (Fellove)
11.  El Santo Negro (Altruda)
12. California Jam Session  (Altruda/Fellove)


Role - InstrumentName
Lead Vocals Francisco "El Gran" Fellove Valdés
Acoustic Bass (all), guitar (6, 8, 11), coro (1, 6, 8, 12) Joey Altruda
Piano (all), coro (3, 6, 7, 9, 11) Osmany Paredes 
Congas (all), güiro (9) Miguelito Valdéz
Timbales  Celio González Jr 
Bongos (1, 4), Güiro (3, 6, 8, 11) Jose 'Papo' Rodríguez 
Trombone (5, 7) Gonzalo Palacios
Trumpets  Alfredo Pino (4); Alfredo Pino & Antonio Perigo (2, 5, 7, 12)
Flute (4. 5, 7, 8, 9, 12)  Reynaldo Perez 
Hammond Organ (1), 3, 6, 8, 9, 11) Red Young
Vibraphone (3,9) Craig Fundyga 
Tenor Sax David González
Strings (9, 11) Harry Scorzo (violin 1, concertmaster), Michael Harrison (violin 2), Jimbo Ross (viola), Nancy Stein Ross (cello)
Guest Trumpet Solos (2, 12) Chocolate Armenteros 
Additional Coros Sharon Stanley (9); Celio González, Laura González, Celio Conzalez Jr., Osmany Paredes, Miguelito Valdes (2, 5, 7, 9, 10) 
Producer/Executive Producer  Joey Altruda 
Arrangements  Joey Altruda (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11) , Osmany Paredes (7), Joey Altruda & Osmany Paredes (2, 9, 10, 12)
Recorded @ Peerless Studios, Mexico City, MX, Autumn 1999
Overdubs & Final Mix  Bob Wayne, Sunburst Studios, Culver City CA, Ca 1999
Bill Tilford - Monday, 20 November 2023, 07:53 PM