Sal Cuevas

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Salvador "Sal" Cuevas (1955 – April 9, 2017) was an American salsa bassist known for his association with the Fania All-Stars from 1978 to 1985. Although he also played the upright bass, he was one of the most popular electric bassists in the New York salsa scene, often playing in a funk style.[1] He was a member of various notable salsa ensembles, including those by Johnny Pacheco, Héctor Lavoe and Willie Colón. During this time, he was also one of five bass players in New York City who recorded many of the "Jingles" for TV and radio; the others were Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Francisco Centeno and Neil Jason. [2]

Sal was born in Manhattan in 1955, and raised in The Bronx, New York City of Puerto Rican parents. He grew up in the streets of the South Bronx, where at the age of five his father began helping him develop his deep love of music. The demographics of the city during the time provided Sal with an array of musical influences which he absorbed and later incorporated into his bass playing technique and style. For his high school years he attended the High School of Music & Art. He performed and recorded with many salsa artists in New York for decades, before moving to Miami in his later years. Sal enjoyed the title of musical director to Willie Colón's orchestra both during Willie's collaborations with famed Panamanian singer/songwriter/actor Rubén Blades and Willie's solo singing ventures.[citation needed] He played bass on Billy Idol's hit "Eyes Without a Face" from the 1983 album Rebel Yell.

Cuevas died on April 9, 2017, at Miami's Pembroke Pines Memorial Hospital. He had complications from diabetes and in previous days suffered a massive stroke and was left in a semicoma.[3]


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 established the instrument as a solo voice. Cuevas was an innovator of this style in Latin music, as on Ray Barreto album "Ricanstruction" where he takes solos alongside the horns. 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 an innovative 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 (glissandi), and utilizing the very upper ranges of the instrument, as heard on "La ceiba y la siguaraya", recorded with Celia Cruz and Sonora Ponceña.


  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.
  3. ^ "Murió el bajista salsero Salvador Cuevas". 10 May 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.