Various Artists – Subway Salsa: The Montuno Records Story

Vampisoul have wisely decided it was time to focus on the story of Montuno Records, an independent Latin record label based in NYC that was run by Jesse Moskowitz out of the now famous Record Mart. The unassuming music store was nestled amongst the sprawling underground of the Times Square subway station in Manhattan. The label and the record shop were entwined and together they helped put Montuno on the map as an institution of Latin New York. While the Fania and Alegre! labels reigned supreme at the time, Jesse Moskowitz and Montuno focused on the more traditional sounds of Cuban roots that still sound timeless today.

“I vividly remember as a young visitor to La Gran Manzana (The Big Apple) going down into the subway, paying my fare, and taking a voyage of discovery not on the metro line itself, but rather in the brightly lit, somewhat grimy confines of Jesse’s cramped store, soaking up the sights of Latin album cover art, the tropical sounds blasting over the speakers, and eavesdropping on conversations among the diminutive shop’s knowledgeable staff and customers. The sights and smells, music and voices would mingle and create an almost overwhelming collage for the senses, as I would attempt to focus my excited eyes and ears on the retail displays, while the rushing crowds flew by in a blur of color and the screeching, rumbling din of the trains below competed for my attention.” – Pablo Yglesias aka DJ Bongohead

This collection samples the recordings from Montuno’s catalog that exemplify danceable Afro-Antillean music, from Nuyorican salsa to Haitian compas, Latin jazz to traditional Cuban genres (including the all-percussion rumba, the flute and violin flavored charanga, and guitar/trumpet-dominated son), as well as several interesting hybrids incorporating funk, doo wop and Brazilian sounds. Vampisoul usually dig deep when they reissue classic sounds, so it’s no surprise they got Pablo Yglesias aka DJ Bongohead to write the liner notes for this release. Record Mart still exists within the Times Square subway station, despite an eight year absence, and it is still a major destination for Latin music enthusiasts. To get a sample of this comprehensive collection, have a listen to “Ensem Ensem” by Scorpio below.

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