Bassist and trumpeter Bobby Valentín contributed greatly to the Fania All-Stars during the '70s (he was their principle arranger) and recorded numerous solo albums during the period, moving from boogaloo and Latin soul into salsa as his career progressed. Born in Puerto Rico in 1941, Valentín was taught guitar by his father before he even entered school. By the age of 11, he'd won a contest with a band he led and began studying alto sax and then trumpet at the Jose Quinton Academy of Music in Coamo.
Just 15 when he moved to New York in 1956, Valentín settled in Washington Heights and continued to study trumpet both at school and with legendary brass teacher Carmine Caruso. He also learned on the streets, playing with different trumpet trios including jazz player Art Farmer and classical trumpeter Louie Mucci. Valentín also formed a band with Chu Hernandez and Joe Quijano named Los Satelites, then began playing professionally in 1958 as a part of Quijano's new orchestra.
During the next seven years, Valentín played both trumpet, guitar, and bass with a roster of Latin heroes -- Willie Rosario, Charlie Palmieri, Ray Barretto (his Orquestra Riverside), and Tito Rodriguez -- and also wrote arrangements for Rosario and Willie Bobo. In 1965, he debuted his own orchestra and recorded his first LP, for Fonseca. Valentín's group recorded another LP that year, El Mensajero, for a new label named Fania Records.
Earlier in the '60s, Valentín had contributed arrangements for label founder Johnny Pacheco, so it was only natural he record for Pacheco's new label as well. And even though Valentín moved back to Puerto Rico with his orchestra by 1968, he made frequent trips back to New York to record for Fania during the late '60s and early '70s. He also began working closely with the label's in-house all-star band, the Fania All-Stars, contributing arrangements and anchoring the sound with his bass (after 1970, he rarely played trumpet) on classic mid-'70s LPs, like Live at the Cheetah, Live at Yankee Stadium, and Tribute to Tito Rodriguez.
In 1978, Valentín began recording for his own label, Bronco Records, and triumphed with La Boda de Ella, one of the most important releases of his career. Though his connection with the Fania All-Stars continued into the '90s, Valentín organized a stable of great artists around Bronco, including Willie Rosario and Orq. Mulenze. Even aside from his globetrotting orchestra, he remained a busy arranger around both Puerto Rico and New York, working on material by Willie Colon, Ismael Miranda, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Cheo Feliciano, and Justo Betancourt, among others. ~ John Bush