Bandleader, singer, composer, trombonist, Grammy winner, political activist, and living legend Willie Colón has done it all. He cut his first album, El Malo, at the age of seventeen with vocalist Héctor Lavoe, another artist with a now-legendary resumé. El Malo helped define the "New York sound" known today as salsa a fusion of jazz, bugalú, and Puerto Rican folk rhythms that was a departure from the more traditional Cuban styles that had been dominating Latin music. In the mid-Seventies, Colón recruited Rubén Blades to replace Lavoe; Siembra, one of their first albums together, is the Sgt. Pepper of New York salsa, the premier Latin album of the pre-Ricky Martin era. Rockers may know Colón for his work on David Byrne's Rei Momo, but he has always been a restless and adventuresome artist, incorporating the sounds of Brazil, Panama, and hip-hop into his ever-changing musical palette. He even had a brief career as an actor, playing federal agent Feliciano Pintor on the TV Azteca series Demasiado Corazón. (He also composed the music for the show's soundtrack.) Colón's bands have always been powerful ensembles featuring blazing horn work, fierce Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms, and the Maestro's irresistible stage presence. Colón is only 55 but says he's tired of touring, so when he brings his farewell tour to Miami this week, it's not a gig you'll want to miss.
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