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El Gran Combo comes to Cleveland, Sept 2


Thirteen men line up in two rows, wearing matching outfits, moving in unison. No, I’m not describing a baseball team out for a photo-op (the tip-off is the ‘moving in unison’), but one of the all-time great salsa dance bands,  El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico.


A musical institution on their home island of Puerto Rico, they’ve been making music for nearly half a century. But don’t let those 50 years fool you into thinking their salsa is in anyway staid or musty. Full of energy, with split-second rhythmic timing and playful lyrics, the ‘CEO of Salsa’ is at the top of its game.


Founded in 1962 by pianist and musical director Rafaél Ithier, one of their first jobs was working as studio musicians for the live television show La Taverna India.


The original line-up included, along with Ithier, Eddie Pérez, Hector Santos, Kito Vélez, Martin Quiñones, Miguel Cruz, and Roberto Roena, who were soon joined by Andy Montanez and Pellin Rodríguez, two of the most famous salsa singers of the time.


El Gran Combo has recorded over 50 releases. Notable among them is El Gran Combo is Las Vegas(1978), both a success and a sigh of relief as it was recorded after the departure of Andy Montanez, Aqui no Se Sienta Nadie(1992) and Breaking the Ice – El Gran Combo en Alaska(2000) which earned them a Grammy nomination.

In 1982, the group celebrated their 25 year anniversary with a historic concert in Madison Square Garden.


Today, only Ithier and saxaphonist Eddie Pérez remain from the original group. But the lineup of remarkable musicians that have performed with El Gran Combo reads like a Who’s Who of the salsa world, including such luminaries as Gilberto Santa who is one of many to have come from El Grand Combo. So it’s not surprising that their nickname is the “University of Salsa.


Get $5 discount with McDonalds

The Northeast Ohio has been one of El Grand Combo favorite stops. That is why Cleveland has been selected be one of their stop for the 50 Year Anniversary Tour Concert. If you bring a large McDonalds soft drink cup to the Wolstein Center when you buy your ticket you will receive a $5.00 discount off any ticket you buy.


McDonalds is a sponsor of El Gran Combo National Hispanic Heritage Month Kick off at the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center on September 2, 2011; for more information go on the Cleveland stop go to wolsteincenter.com or call 216-325-8826 or 440-670-7017.


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Revised: 08/30/11 13:11:02 -0700.





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