Live Concert Photography: Summer Thunder at Union Pool 7/1/17: Joe Bataan
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few weeks you may recall that Summer Thunder is a weekly showcase, presented by Academy Records and popular Williamsburg hotspot and music venue Union Pool, showcasing both up-and-coming and nationally or internationally touring acts and DJs performing at Union Pool’s back patio — for free with drink specials and tacos from El Diablo Tacos. So far New York-based psych rock duo Psychic Ills and the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra played Summer Thunder and adding to an impressive lineup of acts, the legendary New York-born and based salsa/boogaloo/Latin soul legend Joe Bataan.
Born Bataan Nitollano, the legendary New York-born and-based Latin soul composer, pianist and singer/songwriter grew up in East Harlem, where for a short period of time he led the Dragons, a local Puerto Rican street gang, before being sent to the Coxsackie Correctional Facility to serve time for a stolen car charge. When he was released in 1965, Bataan turned his attention to music and formed his first band Joe Bataan and The Lain Swingers, influenced by boogaloo and doo-wop — and although Bataan was neither the first nor only artist to combine doo wop-like singing with Latin rhythms, his unique talent and sound caught the attention of the legendary Latin soul label Fania Records, who he signed with in 1966.
By 1967, Bataan released his best known single “Gypsy Woman,” a Latin dance cover of The Impressions‘ “Gypsy Woman” followed by eight full-length albums, including the gold-selling Riot! Each of those albums mixed energetic Latin dance songs sung in Spanish with a Latin vocalist and slow-burning English language soul ballads typically sung by Bataan.
In 1973, Bataan helped coin the phrase “salsoul,” lending the term to his first post-Fania Records album and to Salsoul Records, which he co-founded with Kennth, Stanley and Joseph Cayre — although Bataan later sold his interest; however, Bataan released three full-lengths and several singles, including “Rap-O Clap-O,” which interestingly enough became an early hip-hop hit.
After the release of 1981’s Bataan II, the legendary Latin soul artist retired from music to spend more time with his family and wound up working as a youth counselor in one of the reformatories, where he spent time as a teenager. But since 1997 Bataan has periodically released new material including his last album 2009’s King of Latin Soul, as well as collaborating with the French act Setenta.
Admittedly, I had difficulties getting up that afternoon and had an even tougher time getting to Union Pool, and as a result I wound up missing much of his set, catching the last batch of songs of his set. Check out some photos from the set below.