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Also known as C-Love, Chris Springer has been the voice and chief programmer of the Latin Grooves show Saturdays on KSDS Jazz 88.3 since 2003. In early 2013, he took time out for a little email Q/A session.
How did the show come about? Chris Springer: "I was already doing a straight-ahead jazz show on 88.3. Joe Kocherhans, who was program director at the time asked me to replace Fred Ubaldo Jr., who was leaving the Jazz Latino Show. We changed the name to the Salsa Hour. The response was good and it became a three-hour show."
Has doing the show changed your life in ways unexpected? "I’m amazed when people I have never met before recognize my face. I’ll travel to shows in Los Angeles and talk with people who don’t know who I am, but when they hear I work for Jazz 88, they mention that their favorite show is that Salsa show on Saturdays. It’s given me more confidence, which in turn has driven me to really jump into the music and research guys like Tito Puente, Machito, and Tito Rodriguez, who had the greatest dance band in the world back in the 30’s and 40’s. It’s been a great ride to see how this music has evolved from New York to the rest of the United States."
If you could go back to any era in the Latin Salsa genre, which would it be? "New York in the 1950’s at the famous Palladium on a Wednesday night when they had the battle of the bands. Three bands would battle for bragging rights every week. They were like rappers, and all of the best dancers would come out. Bands like the Tito Puente Orchestra, Tito Rodriguez Orchestra and Machito and the Afro-Cubans. It’s known as the “Golden Era” of Latin music from the 1950’s to the 70’s."
Any funny stories from doing the radio show? "Once, while interviewing Arturo Sandoval, about 30 seconds before the interview, he told me that he’d terminate the interview immediately if I asked any questions about his life in Cuba. Another time I was interviewing "Mr. Bongo," Jack Costanzo, who was approaching his 90’s and was hard of hearing. We were screaming and yelling on the air, but he told me some great stories. The funniest one was about how he borrowed a car in Puerto Rico after being told not to. He was at a gig, and afterwards when he went to get the car it had been stolen. They found it later up on blocks and completely stripped."
What is the future of this music? "I see a lot of Cuban music in the future of Salsa. The “Timba” craze is phenomenal. People aren’t playing much of the classic Salsa anymore. Now it’s Bachata, Merengue and Reggaeton. Otherwise, I can’t tell you. The future of this music is unknown. It’s up to the dancers. This music was made for dancers. If they don’t take on the next generation of Salsa artists, this art form could theoretically die out. The dancers play a critical role in the future of this art form."
How so? "Dancers these days don’t know who the artists are anymore. They just want to Salsa dance. But they should get in tune with the roots of this music to be able to differentiate between a Mambo, Guaguanco, Salsa Dura, Cha-cha-cha, Guajira, Son Montuno and all of the different Cuban rhythms that make up Salsa music."
Name your Salsa heroes: "The Tito Rodriguez Orchestra, anyone of the Fania All Stars, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco, Willie Bobo, Mongo Santamaria, Sonora Poncena, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Tipica 73, Larry Harlow, Jimmy Sabater, Willie Rosario, Roberto Roena, Ismael Miranda. I can keep going on all day if you let me."
Are there any local Salsa bands worth mentioning? "Gene Perry, who has been playing in San Diego for over 40 years, Charlie Chavez’ band Afrotruko, and Gilbert Castellanos. On a larger scale I like Grammy nominated La Exelencia from the Bronx, Grupo Arcano, and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra."