Salsa legend Marlow Rosado lit up Bailey Hall this Friday with his band, La Riqueña. Rosado is a native Puerto Rican who began his music career by studying Jazz education in Florida. He is now a producer, composer, skilled pianist and tireless vocalist. He dabbles in multiple musical genres, incorporating elements of salsa, merengue, bachata and reggaetón into his compositions. Speaking to his mastery of music, his album Retro won the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album against competing nominations from star bachatero Romeo Santos.
Marlow Rosado and La Riqueña brought the nightclub vibes to Bailey Hall. The band, consisting of Mike Rivera strumming the bass, Pablo Molina on the congas and Gamalier Reyes playing the timbales performed high-energy rhythms that brought the audience to their feet. Reyes’ rapid-fire drumming was jaw-dropping to watch. Meanwhile, Marlow Rosado’s passionately played Afro-Cuban montuno and tumbao patterns on the piano, intermittently interrupted by strong glissandos, where he would slide his fingers rapidly across the entire keyboard. He carried the air of Elton John, unable to keep from rocking out to the rhythm while attacking the keys.
The band played upbeat pieces, including “Quiero Que Me Quieras” from their 2014 album Salsanimal, alternated with a few slower, romantic ballads that paid homage to their homeland Puerto Rico.
As a surprise to the audience, Rosado invited an old buddy to the stage — coincidentally a Cornell alum who had studied organically chemistry. Rosado exclaimed, “It doesn’t matter how much organic chemistry you do, the music is in your blood!” The two used to perform together, and it was heart-warming to watch them reunite and sing duets. They sang a beautiful rendition of the song “El Cuarto de Tula,” originally by the Buena Vista Social Club, an ensemble of Cuban musicians established in 1996 to promote the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba.
The most astounding moment of the night was when Rosado invited audience members to the stage for the concert’s grande finale. He asked two Cornell music students, a pianist and violinist, to improvise a song with the band and encouraged the audience to join in by dancing or clapping. The Cornell students successfully composed an impromptu song with the band, and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Like the Buena Vista Social Club, Marlow Rosado’s music also strives to revive salsa’s roots with old-fashioned, traditional instruments and vocal styles. His music transports the listener to another time, another place. He makes me wonder about the future of the salsa genre. Will there be enough singers to keep the genre going?
This performance was brought to Cornell by the Cornell Concert Series. If you’re looking for a healthy dose of Latin jazz and retro salsa beats, I would recommend checking out Marlow Rosado y La Riqueña’s albums.
Ariadna Lubinus is a sophomore in the College of Engineering. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.