Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


ORTIZ, Luis 'Perico'

(b Luis Esteban Ortiz Ruiz, 26 December 1949, Santurce, Puerto Rico) Virtuoso trumpeter; multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer, composer, bandleader, label boss; one of salsa's key figures since the 1970s, his style blending típico Latin music with modern urban jazz-inflected salsa and other elements. Studied at Puerto Rico Music Conservatory, made pro debut at 17 playing trumpet with Mario Ortiz; also played in backing bands for Englebert Humperdinck, Sammy Davis Jr, Trini López, etc; to NYC '72, worked for Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría (arranged, played flute and timbales). He arranged tracks on Ismael Miranda's first solo album and Roberto Roena y su Apollo Sound 6 '74; played trumpet on LPs by Fania All Stars, Ismael Quintana, Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco '74-5; subsequently arranged and/or played for FAS, Roena, Sonora Ponceña, Héctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Willie Colón and Rubén Blades, Típica 73, Pacheco, Tommy Olivencia (produced, performed on, and supplied many hit-making arrangements to Olivencia albums '75-9), others; in '78 he contributed to albums by Lavoe, Pete 'El Conde' Rodríguez, Larry Harlow; arrrranged hits from Colón-Blades Siembra in '78 and produced the outstanding Fuera del Mundo/Out Of This World for charanga Típica Ideal; debuted as a bandleader at NYC's Corso Club and was named Best Trumpeter of the Year by Latin NY magazine, but his own first LP My Own Image on Turnstyle that year disappointed, made with 27 NYC session players (including Blades on acoustic guitar).

Crisp, polished salsa LPs Super Salsa '78, which went gold, and One Of A Kind '79 on New Generation with lead singer Rafael de Jesús were an improvement: he was named Best Trumpeter, Best Arranger, Best New Band and Best Musician in Latin NY critics' awards '79 and won the Farándula Diplo award for Best Trumpeter. De Jesús (b 17 March 1951, NYC) recorded previously with (no relation) George (Dee Jay) de Jesús Jr's Orquesta Dee Jay (Pa' Alante, late '60s, Orchestra Dee Jay, c.'72), La Fantastica, Orquesta Cimarrón (which he co-led on an eponymous LP '75 and Erupción, '77) and Eddie Palmieri's Grammy-nominated Lucumi Macumba Voodoo '78; solo albums including Lo Que Fue No Sera '81, En Grande '85 and Twice As Good! '88; joined Conjunto Clásico for Sensaciones '90 and Tus Dulces Labios '92, went solo again with A Mi Puerto Rico '95. Perico continued with the compilation Lo Mejor and El Astro '81, latter marking debut of new lead singer Roberto Lugo (b 15 October 1950s, Guayama, Puerto Rico; composer/ guitarist/ pianist/ actor). In '79 he produced and played on the charanga LP Inspiraciones by ex-Charanga America vocalist Gene Hernández and his charanga Novedades on Alegre, arranged Colón's 'Nueva York' (Fania LP Solo), worked with Justo Betancourt, Ernie Agosto, Conjunto Clásico. He produced, played, sang in the chorus and wrote some of the arrangements on successful LPs by smoky-voiced singer Santiago Ceron (b Dominican Republic, to NYC '63, three LPs with Arsenio Rodríguez): debut Tumbando Puertas, then Navegando en Sabor, Canta si va' Cantar '80--81, all on Salsa International; reunited '89 for La Vecina on Combo. He produced, played and co-arranged on the noteworthy El Sabor de 'Gene' '81 by Gene Hernández, and others.

He released his own LPs on a new Perico label, playing, producing, writing, arranging, singing in chorus, occasional lead; horns including two trumpets doubling on flugelhorn, two trombones: Sabroso! '82, Sabor Tropical '83 (Perico also played flute), El Isleño '84 (three trombones added) all with lead singer Lugo. Perico produced and directed Entre Amigos '84 on Collectors Series with Lugo, Blades, Rafael Ithier and members of the Dominican merengue band Conjunto Quisqueya; Perico's La Vida en Broma '85 included Lugo, introduced new lead singer Domingo Quiñones (b '63, Ceiba, Puerto Rico). Lugo made his solo debut Este Es Roberto Lugo '86 on Sonotone, followed by salsa romántica sets El Galán de la Salsa, Hecho a la Medida, Aquí Estoy Yo, all on Musical Productions '86-91, and established himself as a soap opera star. Perico's In Tradition '86 included Quiñones and incorporated fusion elements such as synths played by Oscar Hernández (then with Blades's band; Blades wrote the sleeve note); Breaking The Rules '87 continued in that vein, the first 48-track recording in the Latin music industry. Quiñones went solo, releasing salsa romántica sets Es Mi Nombre '90, Pintando Lunas '92, En La Intimidad '93 and Mi Meta '96, all on RMM. Perico established his own Dialen Recording Studio in upstate New York and issued Vuelvo Otra Vez '90 and The Man, His Trumpet, And His Music Are Back! '91 on Dialen Promotions, both with lead vocalist Billy Carrión (who released solo Ritmo And Amor/Rhythm And Love '94). Other artists he recorded at Dialen included Charanga America, Ray Ramos, Ceron, Orquesta Guayacán and Cheo Feliciano, whose wonderful '93 reunion with Perico, Motivos, was partly made there. He relocated to Puerto Rico '93, contributing to albums by Oscar D'León, Roberto Roena, Puerto Rican Power and Alex D'Castro among others; returned as leader on Café Con Leche y Dos de Azucar '96 on RMM with lead singers Rubén Román and Henry Santiago.