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ORQUESTA METROPOLITANA

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The multi-generational throwback band Orquesta Metropolitana was founded by several young fans of charanga típica, Puerto Rican timbalero José “Tommy” Rivera, Jr., Nuyorican bongocero José De León and tumbadora player Vicki Soto, who were joined by veteran timbalero and güiro player Osvaldo “Chihuahua” Martínez. Chihuahua, born in Cuba in the early 1920s, first set foot in New York in 1959 as a member of José Fajardo’s charanga orchestra for a performance at the Palladium. After the Cuban Revolution, Chihuahua decided to stay in New York where he found more opportunities to collaborate with diverse musicians. He contributed to many significant recordings as a sideman with prominent jazz players like Herbie Hancock and also accompanied notable leaders in the Latin scene, such as Ray Barretto, Johnny Pacheco, and Mongo Santamaría. In 1964, he formed a “Cuban descarga” (jam) group under his own name, composed of Latin music all-stars, which enjoyed considerable success in New York and produced two popular LPs for Fonseca Records. After a stint on Salsoul in the late 1970s with Israel “Cachao” López and Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, Chihuahua teamed up with Rivera and De León to co-lead La Metropolitana. Together, they had a successful run at the Chico East salsa nightclub in upper Manhattan. To infuse an extra layer of authentic flavor, Chihuahua invited some old friends from his 1960s descarga band, including lead vocalist Vitín López (known as “El Cantante De La Salsa” as far back as 1968), pianist Elio Martínez, bassist and tres player Leopoldo “Leo” Fleming, Sr., and veteran trumpeter Larry Spencer (known for his work with Richie Ray and Orchestra Harlow), whom Chihuahua had previously accompanied in Kako’s famous New York After Hours Orchestra.

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