Orquesta La Palabra and Latin Jazz
In late 1999 La Palabra began recording a new album, Rap-A-Salsa, with the help of Chuck Neustein. Halfway through the recording, George Balmaseda, whom La Palabra knew from the Orquesta Versalles days, introduced Mel Morrow of Morrowland Records to Palabra. Morrow, who adored La Palabra's arrangements and his musical style, offered to finance the formation of a band with La Palabra. La Palabra abandoned the Rap-A-Salsa project and joined Morrow in the formation of the band, Orquesta La Palabra, with George "Babaloo" Balmaseda and Angelo Pagan on vocals.
With Morrow as executive producer, La Palabra and Morrow began the recording of the album On Fire in Los Angeles. The recording reached completion a year later and featured La Palabra's versions of "Todo Se Derrumbo" and "Lady." "Lady" became a major hit once again, being played throughout the United States and abroad including Europe, Asia, Israel, and Latin America, inspiring a new wave of interest among younger fans and sparking new interest in La Palabra.
In 2003, La Palabra recorded the album Breakthrough with Tornillo Records, which included the hit song, "El Tun Tun de Tu Corazon." It maintained the # 1 spot on Colombia radio for 12 consecutive weeks in 2006 and continued to be played on heavy rotation for most of 2007. Thanks to the song's success, La Palabra toured throughout Latin America and Europe. His hard-working, old-school showmanship reminded one of Latin jazz bandleaders like Tito Puente. Orquesta La Palabra was invited to perform at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, including "I'm Going to Shenzhen" (specifically requested by the mayor of Shenzhen) at the opening ceremonies. La Palabra also played at the Grand Millenium Hotel, China Doll Nightclub, Susie Wong Nightclub, Block 8 Nightclub, the International Salsa Festival, and the 2008 Salsa Congress.
La Palabra fully returned to his Cuban roots in 2009 with the release of Musicholic. The music he had been writing since meeting Mel Morrow was increasingly heavily influenced by the eclectic rhythms and musical styles he heard as a child and adolescent, as well as the more modern Latin jazz he heard as a teen-ager in New York and Detroit. His sophisticated style of Afro-Cuban jazz, while unmistakably his own, is in the tradition of Maraca, Mario Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra, Bebo Valdés, Poncho Sanchez, Oscar D'León, Chucho Valdés (the founder and musical director of Irakere, Cuba's top jazz orchestra), Jerry Gonzalez's Fort Apache jazz group from the late 1970s, early innovator Machito, the spirit of experimentation of Pucho and His Latin Brothers' acid-jazz from the late 1960s, Ray Barretto, and even hints of classic Eddie Palmieri.
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