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Willie Colón and Hector Lavoe’s La Gran Fuga (The Big Break) Returns to Vinyl

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Willie Colón
Trombonist, Composer and Musical Director Willie Colón

Los Angeles, CA (February 13, 2024) – Craft Latino announces a vinyl reissue of 1970’s La Gran Fuga (The Big Break), the Gold-certified sixth collaboration between the legendary duo of trombonist, composer and musical director Willie Colón and famed singer Héctor Lavoe. Set for release on April 12 and available for pre-order todayLa Gran Fuga features such classics as “Barrunto,” “Pa’ Colombia” and “Abuelita”—all newly remastered, featuring (AAA) lacquers cut from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Rounding out the package is a classic tip-on jacket and, as an added bonus, an 11” x 22” insert featuring the album’s iconic “Wanted” poster. La Gran Fuga will also make its debut in 192/24 hi-res digital audio on April 12. In addition, a Salt ‘n’ Peppa deluxe color vinyl exclusive with an exciting bundle option that includes a limited-edition La Gran Fuga T-shirt featuring the iconic album cover art is available for pre-order at Fania.com

Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe: La Gran Fuga [album cover]
Willie Colón and Hector Lavoe: La Gran Fuga [album cover]

One of Latin music’s most formidable duos, salsa pioneers Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe were teenagers when they began working together under Fania Records. Known as “El Cantante,” Lavoe (1946–1993) was one of the great interpreters of salsa music, revered for his bright vocals, seamless phrasing and witty, ad-libbed anecdotes. Colón (b. 1950), meanwhile, quickly became a key figure in the scene, who shaped the sound of salsa on and off stage as a trombonist, composer, producer and leader of his namesake orchestra. Together, Colón and Lavoe defined one of Latin music’s most exciting eras through 11 legendary albums, beginning with the 1967 salsa and boogaloo classic, El Malo

By the turn of the ’70s, the duo was maturing into their signature sound—and enjoying the success of their first Gold-certified LP, Cosa Nuestra (1969). A year later, they followed with the confident La Gran Fuga (The Big Break), which found the two musicians entering a new era of unparalleled creativity and commercial achievement. In a review of the album, journalist Ernesto Lechner (Rolling Stone,Billboard, NPR) calls La Gran Fuga a “masterpiece of Latin music, the kind of formidable artistic statement that established the Fania label as a cultural icon—going beyond the parameters of a company specializing in crowd-pleasing dance music.” He adds, “Most importantly, the songs of The Big Break evoke the duo’s combined cosmovision, which regards life as a combination of reckless joy and profound tragedy.”

Overseen by the great Johnny Pacheco, who served as recording director, the duo is joined by a talented line-up of musicians, including such celebrated percussionists as Milton Cardona (congas), Louie “Timbalito” Romero (timbales), and José Mangual (bongos), plus pianist Professor Joe Torres, second trombonist Willie Campbell and bassist Santi Gonzalez. Together, they push the boundaries of salsa music with a diverse array of numbers, including dance-floor classics like “Barrunto,” “Pa’ Colombia” and “Abuelita” (in which Lavoe affectionately—and hilariously—recalls his grandmother’s sayings). The group also incorporates African musical traditions in the joyful opener “Ghana’ E and draws from Puerto Rican folklore in the nearly six-minute-long “Panameña,” while Lavoe shines in the emotive ballad “No Cambiaré.”

Released in 1970, La Gran Fuga offered one of Colón and Lavoe’s most iconic album covers, in which designer Izzy Sanabria took inspiration from Colón’s “Malo” alter-ego, creating an FBI wanted poster, with the bandleader’s mugshot. In this case, however, “FBI” stood for “Freaks of Bureau Investigation.” After promotional posters were spotted throughout New York City, however, the real FBI requested that the “Wanted by FBI” text be removed. Despite the controversy, La Gran Fuga proved to be an enormous success for the duo, earning them their second Gold certification by the RIAA and plenty of accolades.

In a retrospective review, Jazz Music Archives gave the album five stars, declaring it “essential music,” while AllMusic praised, “Willie Colón and his partner in crime Héctor Lavoe showcased not only confidence but a surprising flexibility and independence.” Vibe, meanwhile, noted that La Gran Fuga “helped crystalize the cultural iconicity of Fania Records,” adding that it “remains a shining emblem of the famed Colón/Hector Lavoe musical aesthetic.”

Colón and Lavoe would go on to release five more albums together, including such best-selling titles as El Jucio (1972), Lo Mato (1973) and the beloved Christmas classics Asalto Navideño Vols. 1 & 2 (1971 and 1972, respectively) with Yomo Toro. While they would each embark on solo projects in the mid-’70s, Colón would serve as producer for many of Lavoe’s most successful releases.

Reflecting on the album, Lechner adds, “Listening to these eight, timeless tracks decades after their original release, the music compels you to ask: How could two young men in their 20s have so much to say? How did they manage to record an album of such depth and beauty? It may be advisable to stop pondering such heady issues and enjoy the music instead. I know I will.”

Click here to pre-order La Gran Fuga (The Big Break)

Click here to find the exclusive bundle including the Salt ‘n’ Peppa deluxe blend color vinyl with the limited-edition La Gran Fuga T-shirt

La Gran Fuga/The Big Break tracklist (vinyl)

Side A: 1. Ghana’ E; 2. Pa’ Colombia; 3. No Cambiaré; 4. Sigue Feliz.

Side B: 1. Barrunto; 2. Abuelita; 3. Panameña; 4. Canción Para Mi Suegra

*Digital album tracklist mirrors the vinyl

About Fania:

Highly influential, both musically and culturally,?Fania?Records spread the sound of salsa music from the clubs of New York City to the rest of the world and became a revered global brand in the process.?Fania’s master recording catalog is the definitive home for genres such as Latin big band, Afro-Cuban jazz, boogaloo, salsa and Latin R&B and includes artistic giants such as Celia CruzWillie ColónHéctor Lavoe and Rubén Blades. With the creation of the international supergroup known as the?Fania?All-Stars, the label’s signature musical style became known as the “Fania?Sound.”?Fania’s rich master catalog also includes the Pete Rodriguez’s boogaloo classic “I Like It Like That” which was sampled by Cardi B in her #1 hit “I Like It. Additionally, three Fania Recordings, Celia & Johnny by Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco,?Azucar Pa’ Ti?by Eddie Palmieri and?Live at Yankee Stadium?by the?Fania?All-Stars, appear in the National Recording Registry, a list of sound recordings that “are culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.” For more info, visit Fania.com and follow on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

About Craft Latino:

Craft Latino is home to one of the largest and most prestigious collections of Latin music master recordings and compositions in the world. Its rich and storied repertoire includes legendary artists such as Antonio AguilarJoan SebastianPepe AguilarCelia CruzHéctor LavoeWillie ColónRay BarrettoLa LupeRuben Blades and the Fania All Stars, to name just a few. Renowned imprints with catalogs issued under the Craft banner include MusartFaniaTHPanartWest Side Latino and Kubaney, among many others. Craft creates thoughtfully curated packages, with a meticulous devotion to quality and a commitment to preservation, ensuring that these recordings endure for new generations to discover.

Craft Latino is the Latin repertoire arm of Craft Recordings. The catalog label team for Concord. For more info, visit CraftRecordings.com.

Web Publisher. Founder, Editor & Webmaster for Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report & That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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