Sal Cuevas

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Electric bass guitarist and upright bassist[1][2] Salvador "Sal" Cuevas was for many years, a member of the salsa music group Fania All-Stars, circa (1978–1985), as well as several other top name salsa groups of the time such as Johnny Pacheco, Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colon/Ruben Blades, etc.. During this time, he was also one of five bass players in New York City who recorded many of the "Jingles" for T.V. and Radio (The others were Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Francisco Centeno, and Neil Jason). For his High School years he attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art.

Sal also enjoyed the title of Musical Director to Willie Colon's orquestra both during Willie's collaborations with famed Panamanian singer/songwriter/actor Rubén Blades, and Willie's solo singing ventures. Sal was born in Manhattan in 1955, and raised in The Bronx, New York City of Puerto Rican parents. He grew up in the tough streets of the South Bronx where at the age of five, his dad began helping him develop his deep love of music, and as a result Sal was able to stay away from the negative influences those streets can bring. Musically speaking, the demographics of the city during the time provided Sal with a tremendous array of musical influences which he wisely absorbed and later incorporated into his bass playing technique and style.

Always in demand, he has recorded and performed with a long list of the giants of salsa, jazz, pop, rock and beyond, including; Willie Colón, Rubén Blades, Héctor Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Machito, Fania All-Stars, Celia Cruz, Larry Harlow, Ismael Miranda, Eddie Palmieri, Cheo Feliciano, Johnny Pacheco, Tito Nieves, Soledad Bravo, Sophy, Fernandito Villalona, Tito Allen, Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, Papo Lucca, Arturo Sandoval, Billy Idol, Lenny Kravitz, Cissy Houston, (Whitney Houston's mom), Kirsty MacColl, Jon Lucien, Mongo Santamaria, Angela Bofill, Dave Valentin, Noel Pointer, Airto & Flora Purim, Harry Belafonte, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Gilberto Santarosa, Olga Tañón, Jaci Velaquez, Mandy Moore, José Feliciano, Oscar D'León, Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, Franco De Vita, Rocio Durcal, Ricardo Montaner, Amaury Gutiérrez, Cristian Castro, David Bisbal, Thalía, La India, Isaac Delgado, Obie Bermúdez, Jimena, Los Ilegales, Los Gaitanes, Gian Marco, Hector 'El Father', Don Omar, Tego Calderon, and the list, (much too long to list here), goes on and on with hundreds of other world famous artist, both Latin and/or American. While living in New York, he was also heavily involved (thanks to friend and fellow bassist Francisco Centeno) in the "Jingle" business of New York City.

The early to mid-1970s was a time when the electric bass guitar came of age with the likes of world famous jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke, and in the Latin music world, Sal kept pace with those guys by taking the instrument to the "next level" within Latin music. Just listen to him seduce you with tradition while also giving the horn players a run for their money on the Ray Barreto album "Ricanstruction".

On a couple of tracks, he also uses sound modifying effects and foot pedals to add a different "color" to the sound of the bass. Sal is credited as being the innovator of Latin music bass playing when he first incorporated never before heard, nor utilized, Funk/Jazz/R&B/Rock styles and techniques on the instrument.

While maintaining the traditional flavor and concepts of authenticity within Latin music, he managed to fuse all those other "worlds" into his bass playing technique resulting in the creation of a completely unique style. On some recordings for instance, he would play very intricate horn section lines or phrases on the bass in unison with the horns, which until then was virtually unheard of within the genre, as was his funky bass slapping and string snapping technique which today has become a norm for bassist within Latin "salsa" music thanks to Sal. He also incorporated the technique of "tapping" in his Latin bass playing.

On the electric upright bass, Sal incorporated techniques which also (until then) were completely unheard of in Latin music such as slides, (Glissandos), and utilizing the very upper ranges of the instrument, (Check out Sal with Papo Lucca/Celia Cruz on Sonora Poncena's "La Ceiba Y La Siguaraya"). Internet searches on Sal are sometimes incomplete, but he is currently living in South Florida where he stays very active doing recordings, songwriting, and productions. Sal plays a couple of other instruments as well.

An outstanding example of his playing is on Arturo Sandoval's "Danzon" recording, a brilliant rethinking of Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High".

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gerard, Charley; Sheller, Marty (1989). Salsa!: the rhythm of Latin music. White Cliffs Media Co. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-941677-09-7. Retrieved 9 April 2011. "Perhaps one of the most popular electric bassists on the recording scene is Sal Cuevas, who sometimes plays in a funk style." 
  2. ^ Mauleón, Rebeca (1993). Salsa guidebook: for piano and ensemble. Sher Music Co. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-9614701-9-7. Retrieved 9 April 2011.