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Lazarito Valdés & Manolito Simonet

By Robert Kaye
Published June 25, 2007

Knock Out: Lazarito Valdés y Bamboleo & Manolito Simonet y Su Trabuco En Concierto
Import (BIS 003)

This DVD/CD package is an absolute must for fans of modern salsa and especially timba. The core concept is a musical mano a mano between two of Cuba’s most talented keyboardists/composers and their respective ensembles: Lazarito Valdés and Bamboleo versus Manolito Simonet and Su Trabuco. The two even walk on stage wearing boxing gloves and robes before “sparring” on keyboards for a few minutes. The DVD is edited with each group playing a song or two, followed by the other, in alternating fashion, often interspersed with comments about Valdés and Simonet’s friendly rivalry by Cuba’s venerated boxers, musicians or ballerinas. Ditto the CD, sans comments. Knock Out is a dream come true, since neither ensemble tours the States frequently. Bamboleo, as always, is propelled by Valdés’ perpetual motion montunos and tumbaos along with the group’s stalwart rhythm section. Its new lead vocalist, Tania Pantoja Palmera, is riveting–singing with aplomb, dancing lithely, and flirting with the audience or several cameras simultaneously. Prevalent throughout Bamboleo’s songs are crafty breaks the band nails right on cue. Simonet’s Su Trabuco’s arrangements are less complex, but his 16-piece band is equally dynamic, with horns, flute, strings and two keyboards, its all-male frontline performing with mucho machismo. A few disappointments: Bamboleo’s signature tune, “Ya no hace falta” fades before its pulsating conclusion, and additional comments by more of the musicians would have been enlightening. Otherwise, Knock Out is guaranteed to have you seeing stars!