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Merengues - Exitos Originales, Vol. 1

by Dioris Valladares con su Conjunto Típico

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Compay Cucu 02:51
Ay! Mi Vida 02:36
Las Batatas 02:51
El Can Can 02:40
Yanico 02:43
Paulina 02:36
Gratey 02:47


Dioris Valladares (b. Isidro Valladares Mejías) was a Dominican singer, composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader who was an active participant in the Afro-Caribbean music scene -- which we identify today as "salsa" -- in New York City since the 1940s. He is considered one of the pioneering vocalists of Dominican merengue. Dioris was born on August 16, 1916 in San Pedro de Macorís to Pedro Valladares Martínez and Mercedes Mejías. In 1936, along with his sister Milagro, he sailed from Cuidad Trujillo (Santo Domingo) to New York City to reconnect with his mother and siblings who were living in East Harlem. He began his career in 1939 singing with numerous rumba orchestras that toured throughout the United States. By 1941, Dioris had made his recording debut for Decca Records in New York with Alberto Iznaga y su orquesta Siboney interpreting a full array of Afro-Cuban tunes including “Negro azabache,” “Que siga la rumba,” “El velorio de macuto,” and “Aguzate.” He was adept at interpreting Cuban popular songs and rhythms such as the rumba, bolero, son, mambo, and guaracha, all of which contributed to his masterful delivery of merengues later in his career.

While still performing with Iznaga, Dioris began singing alongside Puerto Rican vocalist Daniel Santos with El Conjunto del Ritmo, which was led by Afro-Cuban percussionist Carlos Montesino. On August 13, 1942, he enlisted as a private in the United States Army during World War II and was honorably discharged on November 24, 1945 (1). After the war, he worked with the orchestras of Xavier Cugat, Noro Morales, Anselmo Sacasas, José Curbelo, Enric Madriguera, and Roger “King” Mozian. But it was in 1950, when he joined Juanito Sanabria’s orchestra, that he would become recognized for his talent as a vocalist. The orchestra performed at the famous Club Caborrojeño, where Dioris would first begin singing merengues, including “La cachucha,” “Canto de hacha,” and “La amaneca,” which were performed multiple times a night at the audience’s request (2). His talent caught the attention of Ansonia Records founder Rafael “Ralph” Pérez who hired the Juanito Sanabria orchestra for a single recording session in 1951. They recorded 12 merengues that were well-received by the public, two of which were successful hits: "La amaneca" in Puerto Rico and the merengue calypso "La moña" in New York, which was the earliest example of a calypso/merengue fusion success. They also recorded experimental merengue variations such as the bolemengue (bolero and merengue fusion) “En Dónde Estás?” created by Dr. Luis Senior. Following these recordings, Pérez hired Dioris to record with the recently formed Ángel Viloria y su Conjunto Típico Cibaeño in 1953. In his time with Ángel Viloria, Dioris rose to prominence for his interpretations of timeless Dominican merengues such as “A lo oscuro.” He became a household name, which afforded him the opportunity to start his own group. While recording with Ángel, he was hired to perform with his own orchestra at the Gloria Palace for two years and at the Club Caborrojeño. In 1955, Dioris recorded merengues for Ansonia Records, both with his own conjunto and as lead vocalist for Ramón García y su Nuevo Conjunto Cibao. For the next two decades, he would enjoy continued success as a vocalist and bandleader in New York City, forming part of the nascent salsa movement during his time with Al Santiago’s Alegre Records. He remained active until the mid to late 1970s when he would semi-retire for the remainder of his career until his death on July 26, 2001.

Dioris Valladares con su Conjunto Típico Merengues Vol. 1 (ALP 1203) is the first compilation of hits by Dioris Valladares y su Conjunto Típico, who was considered “El Rey del Merengue” of the moment in New York City. With these recordings, Dioris introduced the U.S. Big Band mambo-like arrangements that showcased trumpets and, more importantly, saxophones, which were given room to improvise, playing in and out of the merengues while staying within the rhythm. These recordings took place at the famous Beltone Studios in 1955 when Dioris was 39. The merengues were released in 1955 and 1956, featuring the dynamic talents of Jorge López (trumpet), (trumpet), Ramón Quesada (alto saxophone), Gaspar Escalera (tenor saxophone), Hèctor Pellot (piano), Willie Sosías and Wito González (bass), Luis Quintero (tambora), Jaime Tavárez (piano-accordion), as well as the impressive vocals on chorus of Mon Rivera, Joe Valle, Casíto Morales, and Chaguín García to name a few. Dioris played güira and led every track with a beautiful delivery and cadence. This album has several amazing tunes that further helped popularize Dioris as a bandleader and cemented him as a true ambassador of merengue in the New York Latin music scene for decades to come. The lively merengue “Por Culpa De Un Saxofón” starts off by taking a jab at the popular mambo to demonstrate that merengue is superior. Ramón Quesada’s incredible solo on alto-saxophone showcases his unique phrasing and technique influenced by the style of playing of fellow compatriot Ramón E. García. The powerful trumpets make their appearance on the high-tempo and danceable “Compay Cucú,” “El Can Can,” “Las Batatas,” and “Yanico.” The Dioris-composed Spanglish merengue “Yanico” is similar to “Good Morning," a song he wrote in the early 1950s also in Spanglish, which he recorded with the Juanito Sanabria orchestra. Both songs make references to San Pedro de Macorís, his hometown in the Dominican Republic. “Los Dos Merengues,” a mid-tempo tribute to Dominican and Puerto Rican merengues is an excellent cut on this album; the use of piano is carefully intertwined with the tambora, güira, and saxophones’ rhythms. The solid orchestration and musicianship can be heard in the popular song by Rafael Hernández “Buche Y Pluma No Ma,” a swinging merengue version that truly fits the mood. Other notable songs on the album are the “El Secreto de Sandy,” “Paulina,” and “Gratey.” The album is a special culmination of the musical influences that Dioris had come to experience since he first began performing merengues with the Juanito Sanabria’s orchestra, and his international success with Ángel Viloria y su Conjunto Típico Cibaeño in the early 1950s.

(1) CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, et al. Dioris Valladares. JSTOR, jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.23446013.

(2) Valladares, Dioris. “Pequeña historia del merengue dominicano en la ciudad de Nueva York,” Listín Diario, Santo Domingo, 25 de agosto de 1996, 49.

-Jhensen Ortiz


released November 5, 1956


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