Calling an artist a living legend in print can be a tricky business, with the risk of vocal naysayer upheaval very real. It requires either a certain disregard for reader opinion or a subject whose trajectory speaks so loudly for itself that the writer's words become less an affirmation than mere statement of fact. Gilberto Santa Rosa is just such an artist.
Over the course of 20-plus years in the genre, the man known and loved the world over as "El Caballero de la Salsa" has been at the forefront of tropical music. He's released one album after another of instant hits, garnering awards and accolades, representing his native Puerto Rico, and championing a unique style of singing known as soneo, salsa's answer to freestyle. He's also a prodigious interpreter of bolero, a slow-groove style of romantic music that originated in Cuba. (For the best example of the latter, see his 2003 release, Solo Bolero, a collection of ten tender favorites including "Pueden Decir," "Como He Podido Estar Sin Ti," and "Mentira.")
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But undoubtedly among his most famous contributions to Latin music was a mid-'90s performance given at New York's famed Carnegie Hall, the first of its kind. It's from that concert that came his live disc En Vivo Desde el Carnegie Hall, which features an extended version of his hit "Perdoname" that included a four-minute soneo. The disc immediately became a favorite among salsa lovers and a classic of the genre. And today, Santa Rosa's impact and influence on tropical music remain as vital as ever.