It’s a little past midnight inside the ballroom of a Sunny Isles Beach hotel, as the thinned out crowd seems oblivious to the salsa blaring from the speakers.
Nothing the resident DJ standing atop the stage puts on the turntable during a one-hour span did little to arouse the gathering of mostly middle-aged women and gents. Fifteen minutes later everything changed – thanks to the boyish energy, stage presence and melodic voice of Lefty Perez.
Despite struggling to adjust the microphone sthe Puerto Rican salsero uses his high-ranging vocals to deliver a blistering rendition of “Perdoname De Nuevo” while imploring the crowd to come to its feet. Several minutes later about half of the people in the ballroom are out of their chairs and dancing around Perez – who is sitting in a chair - on the wooden floor.
He displays a rare combination of gentleman’s class and composure as he heads out into the crowd in an attempt to pull more people onto the dance floor. But that’s one of Perez’s best qualities according to a longtime associate.
“That’s Lefty man, whether he’s singing in front of 10,000 people or in a situation like that one,” says Gamalier Reyes, 27, who has served as Perez’s orchestra director since 1994. “Lefty makes something positive out of anything and just transmits that kind of vibe to those around him.”
A positive energy and rangy voice has allowed the 46-year-old Perez to stay afloat and withstand the test of time during a career that spans three decades.
The son of a professional guitarist, Perez developed a heartfelt passion for the Latin rhythms as a teenager. Several years later the lanky kid with a full-set of black hair would find himself singing alongside the likes of Ray Barreto, Johnny Pacheco and Alex Leon, among others.
In the mid 80’s Perez was tapped to replace renowned salsa musician Luis Enrique with the Sensation 85 before accepting a deal with T&H Records in 1988.
Since then he has scored big with a bevy of sensually lyrical songs including, “Mentira,” “El Final De Nuestra Historia,” “El Amor” and “Quiero Pedirte Perdon” – songs that earned him the reputation as one of the exponents of the “romantic salsa” that was so prevalent during the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
“If the people don’t feel my music and what I’m trying to transmit, then Lefty Perez isn’t doing his job,” he says. “That’s the bottom line.”
Chances are his contagious and articulate interpretive abilities will be on full display. -- Fernando Ruano Jr.
Lefty Perez will perform tonight at Club Mystiques inside the Miami Airport Hilton (5101 Blue Lagoon Dr.) as part of a tribute/fund raiser in honor of Puerto Rican salsero Hector Trecoche. For additional information call (305) 262-1000.