The Fania All-Stars
is a musical ensemble established in 1968 as a showcase for the musicians on the record label Fania Records, the leading salsa record company of the time.BeginningsIn 1964, Fania Records was founded in New York City by Jerry Masucci, an Italian-American lawyer with a love for Latin melodies, and Johnny Pacheco, a composer and bandleader, born in the Dominican Republic. Masucci later bought out his partner Pacheco from Fania Entertainment Group Ltd., and was the sole owner for many years until his death in December 1997.Throughout the early years, Fania used to distribute its records around New York. Eventually success from Pacheco's Cañonaso
recording would lead the label to develop its roster. Masucci and Pacheco, now executive negotiator and musical director, respectively, began acquiring musicians such as Bobby Valentín, Larry Harlow and Ray Barreto.Back row from left: Yomo Toro (holding guitar), Roberto Roena, Papo Lucca, Adalberto Santiago, Johnny Pacheco, Reynaldo Jorge, Ismael Miranda, Puchi Boulong, Luigi Texidor, Leopoldo Pineda, Héctor Lavoe. Second row: Aníbal Vazquez, Eddie Montalvo, Rubén Blades, Pupi Legarreta, Santos Colón, Ed Byrne. Front row, sitting down: Juancito Torres, Sal Cuevas, Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, Celia Cruz, Cheo Feliciano, Nicky Marrero and Héctor "Bomberito" Zarzuela. Not included on photo, though was part of the same show: Ismael Quintana. Venezuela circa 1980.
In 1968, Fania Records created a continuously revolving line-up of entertainers known as the Fania All-Stars. In 1971 they recorded Fania All-Stars: Live At The Cheetah, Volumes 1 and 2.
It exhibited the entire All-Star family performing before a capacity audience in New York's Cheetah Lounge.Following sell-out concerts in Puerto Rico, Chicago and Panama, the All-Stars embarked on their first appearance at New York's Yankee Stadium on August 24, 1973. The Stars performed before more than 50,000 spectators in a concert that featured Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Ruben Blades, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentín, and Jorge Santana (younger brother of Carlos Santana), Edwin Tito Asencio, Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Justo Betancourt, Ismael Quintana, Pete "El Conde" Rodríguez, Bobby Cruz and Santos Colón. Live at Yankee Stadium
was included in the second set of 50 recordings in the List of recordings preserved in the United States National Recording Registry, solidifying the All-Stars as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."Just a few months before, in 1974, the All Stars had performed in Zaire, Africa, at the 80,000-seat Stadu du Hai in Kinshasa. This was captured on film and released as Live In Africa
in the UK). This Zairean appearance occurred along with James Brown and others, at a music festival held in conjunction with the Muhammed Ali/George Foreman heavyweight title fight. Footage of the performance was also included in the 2008 documentary film Soul Power
.In an attempt to attain a wider market for salsa, Fania made a deal with Columbia Records in the US for a series of crossover albums by the All-Stars. The first project was Delicate & Jumpy
(1976), in which Steve Winwood united with the All-Stars' Pacheco, Valentin, Barreto and Roena. The same year the Fania All-Stars made their sole UK appearance, at London's Lyceum Ballroom, with Winwood guesting.In 1978 the All-Stars released Live
, recorded in concert at New York's Madison Square Garden in September of that year.In 1979, Fania All-Stars travelled to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the Havana Jam festival that took place between 2–4 March, alongside Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Stills, the CBS Jazz All-Stars, Trio of Doom, Billy Swan, Bonnie Bramlett, Weather Report, and Billy Joel, plus Cuban artists such as Irakere, Pacho Alonso, Tata Güines and Orquesta Aragón. Their performance is captured on Ernesto Juan Castellanos's documentary Havana Jam '79
. That same year saw the release of Crossover
, the All-Stars' last Columbia Records album, as well as Havana Jam on Fania
, which came from a concert recorded in Havana on March 2.
In 2008, Cheo Feliciano celebrated his 50 years in the music industry by hosting a concert at Madison Square Garden, where Bloomberg declared July 20 "Cheo Feliciano Day" in New York.In 2009, an historical documentary, Latin Music USA
, shown on PBS TV, featured an episode on the Fania All-Stars, their evolution, career, and later demise. In 2009 as well, the All-Stars returned to the stage, opening Guitarists Carlos Santana's world tour in Bogotá Colombia. The presentation caused mixed feelings inside the salsa circle though, mainly because they were treated as seconds by the concert's organizers.Finally in March 2011, and subsequently in November 2012, a limited roaster of the All-Stars preformed in Lima, Peru. One thing to note about the 2012 performance is the return of Ruben Blades. Ismael Quintana was not present in the November 2012 presentation though, as well as Yomo Toro (Yomo died in Q3 2012).In 2014 the Fania All-Stars were chosen to receive ASCAP's honorary Latin Heritage Award.