Roberto Valentín was born on June 9, 1941, in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. Valentín has, over a quarter of a century, gained the reputation as one of salsa's foremost bandleaders. In addition to having been one of the genre's top arrangers, he is known as "El Rey del Bajo" (The King of the Bass). For a time he also proved adept on the trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn. He moved to New York, USA at the age of 17, where he worked with the bands of Willie Rosario, Joe Quijano, Charlie Palmieri and Tito Rodríguez.
Valentín formed his own band in 1965 and debuted with them on "Ritmo Pa Goza" on the Fonseca label. The personnel included Marcelino "junior" Morales (lead vocals) and Joey Pastrana (timbales). The latter went on to record a series of albums with his own band on Cotique Records between 1967-71.
Valentín signed with Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco's Fania Records and released nine albums on the label between 1966 and 1974. Morales continued to provide lead vocals until he returned to live in Puerto Rico in 1968. His replacement was the forlorn timbre of Frankie Hernández, who left after Valentín's next release and appeared on the 1973 debut album by "Impacto Crea", a band who emerged from a drug addiction re-education project. Hernández was replaced by husky-voiced Marvin Santiago, a former Tommy Olivencia band member. Valentín settled for a front-line of two trumpets, trombone, and baritone saxophones; apart from substituting alto for tenor saxophone in 1976, he has retained this combination until now. Hernández returned on 1974's Rey Del Bajo to join Santiago as co-lead vocalist.
Valentín then founded his own label, Bronco Records. The first two releases were his own "Vaya la Cárcel Vol. 1" and Vol. 2, recorded "live" at the State Penitentiary of Puerto Rico, and both released in 1975. Hernández departed to re-join Impacto Crea and record as a solo artist. He was succeeded by Juan (Johnny) Vázquez on 1976's "Afuera" album. Vázquez remained with Valentín into the 90s. Santiago departed; he appeared on the first album by the "Puerto Rico All-Stars" in 1976, but drug problems interrupted his recording career until the late 70s, when he reappeared to establish a string of solo albums on the Top Hits (later TH-Rodven) label.
Luigi Texidor, who was formerly with Sonora Ponceña, joined Vázquez as co-lead singer on 1978's Musical Seduction, on which he performed the hit track "Nací Moreno" (Born Brown). Valentín has had the annoying habit of self-titling his albums; there have been numerous releases called Bobby Valentín. In an attempt to minimize confusion, the discography follows the approach adopted in a mid-80s edition of the Bronco catalogue, of identifying some of his discs by standout tracks.
In 1978, Carlos (Cano) Estremera debuted with his fine, clear voice on Bobby Valentín (aka La Boda De Ella), replacing Texidor. In 1980, Rafael (Raf£) Warner, who shared lead vocals with Frankie Hernández on Impacto Crea's 1981 (1980), joined Estremera and Vazquez on Bobby Valentín (aka El Gato) and 1981's "Siempre En Forma"; the latter contained the excellent "Cuando Uno Se Enamora".
In 1982, "Bobby Valentín Presenta A El: Cano Estremera" showcased Estremera, who sang in the chorus on 1983's Bobby Valentín (aka Brujería) while Vázquez and Warner took lead vocals. Estremera headlined on the album "En Acción" (1984), accompanied by Valentín and his band. The superb "La Gringa" and "La Novia Automatica" were hit tracks from that release.
Estremera departed to pursue a solo career in 1985. Bobby Valentín reinstated a trio of lead vocalists on 1985's release of "Algo Excepcional" with Vázquez, Warner and the addition of ex-"Salsa Fever" and "La Terrifica" member Luisito Carrión. Warner left after Bobby Valentín (1988) to pursue a solo career. Smooth-voiced Joaquin (Tato) Peña replaced Warner on the salsa erótica oriented "Mas Amor" in 1989. Peña performed the title track, an apt revival befitting salsa's romantic mood at the time; its author, Roberto Lugo, originally sang the song on Luis "Perico" Ortiz' Sabroso! in 1982.
Bobby signed a distribution deal for Bronco Records with the larger Sonotone label and the first release subject to this was his own compilation "Aquí Esta La Salsa" in 1990. Carrión left to do a brief stint with Don Perignon in 1989 and La Puertorriqueña's Festival De Soneros in 1990 before joining Sonora Ponceña in 1990; he was succeeded by Giovanni Lugo on Valentín's 1990 release "Como Nunca".
Some of Bobby's finest progressive and highly textural arrangements can be found on his early 80s releases. However, the three albums he released between 1985 and 1989 caused some salsa aficionados to fear that he had lost his touch. Thankfully, his album, "Mas Amor" helped to restore faith a little, especially the exhilarating horn arrangement on the outstanding track "Piel Sobre Piel".
Valentín was a founding member of the Fania All Stars, initially playing trumpet on their two debut volumes recorded at New York's Red Garter in 1968. He continues to perform with them, having made his UK debut with the band in 1976. He can be seen playing bass with the Fania All Stars in the 1991 UK video release Salsa Madness filmed in Zaire in 1974.
Bobby has lent one or more of his various talents to recordings by an impressive array of artists and bands, including Larry Harlow, Ismael Miranda, Roberto Roena, Cheo Feliciano, Impacto Crea, Willie Rosario, Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco, Ismael Quintana and Vicentico Valdês.
Valentin recently released his latest album: La Gran Reunion. This is without a doubt one of the year's best salsa releases. The album reunites Valentín with some of his former vocalists: Frankie Hernandez, who recorded with him back in the 1970's, Luigi Texidor, who sang with Valentín's band after his departure from La Sonora Ponceña, Johnny Vazquez who has been with Valentín since the formation of the Bronco label, Nestor Sanchez and newcomer Hector Ivan Rivera. Johnny Pacheco also makes an appearance playing the flute on one of the tracks as well. ~ Music of Puerto Rico