Live Concert Photography: Joe Bataan and Spanglish Fly at Highline Ballroom 2/8/18
Born Bataan Nitollano, Joe Bataan, 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 Kenneth, 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, and Brooklyn-based boogaloo collective Spanglish Fly.
I caught the boogaloo legend’s headlining and career spanning set at Highline Ballroom earlier this month with openers Spanglish Fly. Check out photos from the show below.
Currently comprised of bandleader and founding member Jonathan Goldman (trumpet), Mariella Gonzalez (vocals), Rafael Gomez (bass), Matt Thomas (tenor sax), Paloma Munoz (vocals), Ariel Sekiguchi (timbales), Dylan Blanchard (conga), Kenny Bruno (keyboards), Teddy Acosta (percussion), Vera Kemper (trombone), Edwin “Machuco” Estremera (percussion, vocals), Stefan Zeniuk (baritone sax) and Paula Winter (percussion), the Brooklyn-based collective Spanglish Fly can trace their origins back to 2009 when Jonathan Goldman noticed that during his DJ sets of old-school funk and soul that what really got crowds dancing was the late 1960s boogaloo records by Joe Cuba, Joe Battan, Mongo Santamaria and others. Inspired by both the crowd’s response to the music and his love of it, Goldman founded Spanglish Fly, an act that features a multicultural cast with members who claim heritage (and origins) from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, Japan and of course, NYC. Over the years, the band has played on some of New York’s most renowned stages including The Apollo Theater, The Blue Note, SOB’s, Brooklyn Bowl and The Kennedy Center, as well as playing festivals like Charlotte’s Latin American Fest and Massachusetts’ Green River Fest. Adding to a growing profile, the band has recorded albums that have been released through Electric Cowbell Records and Chaco World Music and have collaborated with legendary Fania Records producer Harvey Averne and Grupo Fantasma‘s and Brownout‘s Adrian Quesada — with 2015’s New York Boogaloo being released to critical praise. Along with that, footage of them performing appears in the 2015 Boogaloo documentary We Like It Like That. The Brooklyn-based boogaloo collective celebrated the release of their newest album Ay Que Boogaloo! with an opening set at Highline Ballroom that featured material from the new album, several boogaloo covers and a handful of boogaloo-based renditions of popular and beloved songs.