Words by Jane Cornwell
Having borrowed their album’s title (‘The Way of the Panther’) from a Marvel comic, and previously reinvented Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme as a salsa dura classic, heroic salsa outfit La-33 here provide a set of roaring, ferocious workouts to complement their big-cat references. They open with a paean to, well, themselves, complete with street noise: La-33 are named for the 33rd street in urban Teusaquillo, the 13th locality of Bogotá, where they were founded in 2001.
This fierce and ambitious fifth album finds the collective as innovative, cocky and dance-defying as ever. Bandleader and electric bassist Sergio Mejia leads a sprawling ensemble on horns, percussion, piano and vocals through fresh twists on genres including boogaloo, mambo and salsa. ‘Pantera Mambo’ is back again (that Mancini theme), this time with more bite and prowl, while the likes of ‘Te Lo Voy a Devolver’, (with rich, R-rolling vocals by David Cantillo) and the trombone-heavy ‘Salsa Resucitó’ virtually grab you by the scruff of the neck and drag you out onto the dance floor. The swinging, swaying ‘Guayabo’ is named after a hangover; it’s typical of the good-natured humour found throughout. Soul, jazz and funk elements keep things sharp on this salsa album with claws.