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Now then, you’re a multi-instrumentalist inspired by that golden era fifty odd years ago when Latin music met Afro-American music and hit it off big time. You’ve got those sixties boogaloo and especially seventies Latin-funk vibes locked down tight, a big enough fistful of musical dynamite for an album, a loose concept (soundtrack/ car-chase), and everything’s been mixed and mastered to perfection. There’s only one problem. Your name’s Neil. Nothing wrong with that you might think – and you’d be right, it’s an honourable name and one associated with greatness – Neil Armstrong, Neil…er..well Neil Armstrong anyway – but whose going to take an LP of Latin funk material seriously if your name’s as British as ‘Neil Anderson,’ the owner of the highly successful label, Original Gravity – for it is he. What you need is a nom-de-plume. You can keep the initials, after all, Latin Americans use the same alphabet as you do, but maybe change ‘Neil’ to…yes! I have it – ‘Nestor’ and ‘Anderson’ to…’Alvarez’! Perfect! Step forward Nestor Alvarez, your debut long player moment has arrived. You should probably get someone you know well to write the sleeve notes for that…

In a mere six years or so, the Original Gravity label has put out a formidable array of funk, soul, Latin, ska and reggae 45s from a vast roster of talent so it was surely only a matter of time before a full-length LP emerged from one of the label’s artists. The only question was ‘Which one?’ Of course that’s before you factor in the staggering reality that virtually none of Original Gravity’s roster of artists exist and ‘their’ output is mainly the output of just one man – label head honcho and multi-instrumentalist Neil Anderson. So the real question should have been, ‘Which of his many aliases would he choose to release an album as first?’ Turns out it’s arguably the one closest to his heart (the clue is in the initials!) for it is, of course, Nestor Alvarez – he of the blisteringly funky Latin 45 covers in collaboration with Luchito (a Peruvian salsero who, ironically, does exist) of Benny Spellman’s Fortune Teller and Archie Bell’s Tighten Up which you’ll kick yourself for not owning if you don’t already.

Put on this eight-tracker and you’re instantly transported back to the sweaty summer heat of Spanish Harlem in the early seventies and the sounds of Joe Bataan, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria and Candido – musicians already well-versed at steeping traditional Latin music in the wellsprings of funk and soul due to the late sixties craze for boogaloo. Things had progressed since Latin music’s first encounters with its Afro-American counterpart however and mirrored developments on the Afro-American funk and soul scene by also now being slicker and even, well… funkier.

And so it is that Melting Pot opens with El Ladron En La Noche, shamelessly making off with seventies funk’s pounding rhythms, organs and sax and augmenting them with timbales, congas and Spanish language chanting in a blistering uptempo fusion. Next up is Un Bucanero Mas – initially a squelchy percussive chugger that eventually broadens out enough to let in some organ and Latin horn action while Mozambique (as the name would suggest) heads in a more Afro-Latin direction with uptempo car-chase vibes. Original Gravity Pts. 1 & 2 is the album’s seven and a half minute centrepiece channeling the Fania Allstars ‘Nuyorican’ sound and the second half kicks off with the jazzier piano-led Joanna. The sinuous Sin Luz introduces a smouldering salsa-funk aesthetic and looks back to the height of the boogaloo era while the taut En Candela hints at a muy grande finale. And that is precisely how things end – with an epic ten minute Latin-funk cover (including a thirty second drum break that will blow minds!) of a Booker T & The MGs’ number that gives its name to the LP in the same way as the original also did.

Part Latin, part funk, part 70s movie soundtrack, a hundred per cent ritmo caliente – now that’s what you call a Melting Pot!
Words: Stone Monkey/
(Pre-order now/ Shipping March on Original Gravity Records)

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