For those who don't know, El Gran Combo is known as La Universidad de la Salsa (the University of Salsa). And Sergio Vargas is the king of merengue. Which basically makes their gig at the James L. Knight Center this Friday the equivalent of the '73 Miami Dolphins meeting the '27 New York Yankees in a steel-cage death match.
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Vargas, who was considered the leader of a pack that included Milly Quezada, Wilfrido Vargas, and Toño Rosario, is no slouch by any stretch. But El Gran Combo didn't earn its nickname for nothing. This institution of tropical music has been grinding it out for nearly 50 years with nary a break. Sure, certain members, such as vocalist Andy Montañez, have departed over the years. But others, such as pianist, original musical director, and all-around salsa god Rafael Ithier, are still going strong. And even at the half-century mark, this orchestra responsible for countless hits — including "Pa' Fuera pa' la Calle," "Brujeria," and "Timbalero" — always packs the dance floor. Advantage Combo.