Raices was a Puerto Rican Latin-jazz/rock band that released a self-titled album on Nemperor in 1975. The band were a local supergroup comprising ex-members of Kaleidoscope, Space, and Cortijo & His Time Machine.

Members: Juan Melendez (flute, soprano saxophone, clarinet), Amaury Lopez (fender rhodes, grand piano, clavinet, moog, acoustic guitar, percussion, vocal), Carlos ‘Kiko’ Melendez (guitars, cuatro, vocal), Roberto Puras (bass), Gonchi Sifre (drums, percussion, harmonica), Rafael Cruz (manjira, [clay] drums, goblet drum, cuica, bells, berimbau, cabasa, caxixi, flexatone), Sammy Figueroa (congas, triangle, flexatone, kalimba, vocals)

Raices comprised some of the island’s most accomplished musicians. Percussionist Rafael Cruz hailed from psych-rockers Kaleidoscope, which issued an eponymous album in Mexico in 1969. Keyboardist Amaury Lopez and bassist Roberto Puras played in Latin-rockers Space, which self-released the album Music to the People in 1970. Drummer Gonchi Sifre played on the popular 1973 release Y su Maquina del Tiempo by Cortijo & His Time Machine.

The band’s singular album, Raices, was released on Nemperor/Atlantic in 1975. Of the eight tracks, seven are originals, including the brisk reed-riff gallop “Lenguas,” the chirping samba whirlwind “Parata Gua Gua,” the interrupted cocktail moonlighter “Parallax,” and the clavinet/clarinet groove of “Bluegarian Funk Dance.” Writing credits are mostly divided between Lopez and bothers Juan (reeds, voice) and Carlos Melendez (guitar). A seven-minute rendition of the Oscar Castro Neves/Sebastiano Neto composition “After Sunrise” is the sole cover. Musically, the band’s hallmarks include reed/keyboard trade-offs, abrupt tempo shifts, and frequent percussive spray.

The members of Raices were all multi-instrumentalists. Cruz’s arsenal included sardarflute, manjira (finger cymbals), dumbagi, quika, berimbau, cabassa, chickera, caxixi, quedo, flexitone, and coconut shells.

Raices was produced by Bruce Botnick (The Doors, Love, Ben Sidran, James Vincent, Ross, Tony Williams Lifetime) and recorded at Miami’s Criteria Recording Studios. Its cover depicts a large poinciana illustrated by Haruo Miyauchi, who’s other visual credits include covers for Utopia (Todd Rundgren’s Utopia) and Roy Ayer’s Ubiquity (Virgo Red).

Guitarist Carlos “Kiko” Melendez recorded a pair of 1976/77 albums with the Rice and Beans Orchestra. He also played on albums by Art Webb, Eladio Torres, and Celi Bee & The Buzzy Bunch. He reunited with Lopez and Puras on Titti Sotto’s 1978 album Salsisimo!, billed as T.T.S. & The Banana Boat Co. and released on one-press Banana Records.

Cruz’s list of post-Raices credits includes albums from the worlds of rock (Tommy Bolin, Ray Gomez) jazz (Don Cherry, Herbie Mann, Kenny Barron, Steve Grossman, Sonny Fortune), jazz-funk (Art Webb, Brecker Brothers, Kilimanjaro), pop (Bette Midler, Carly Simon), soul (Chaka Khan, Narada Michael Walden), and international fusion (Chris Hinze Combination, Morrissey Mullen, Passport). Cruz also partook in the jazz all-star conglomerate the Atlantic Family, which performed at the 1977 Montreux International Festival: an event chronicled on the 1978 Atlantic double-album Live at Montreux.

Sifre played on Roy Buchanan’s 1976 album A Street Called Straight. He also appeared, with Kiko and Cruz, on Art Webb’s 1977 release Mr. Flute.


  • Raices (1975)


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