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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Oscar D’Leon Surpasses Bounds of Salsa

Oscar D’Leon is regarded as one of salsa’s most exciting performers and singers, but the term salsero is too limiting for the veteran from Venezuela. His fast-paced show on Friday before a full house at the Mayan dance club proved again that he’s an all-around tropical musician, capable of excelling in all areas of Latin dance music.

D’Leon, 51, refused to stick with the safe old salsa-only formula, mixing things up with both his own songs and all-time classics and an unpredictable selection of cumbia , merengue , cha-cha-cha and even Mexican rancheras .

Backed by his unusual 13-piece orchestra--one of the few salsa ensembles to still include acoustic bass and Venezuelan percussion-- D’Leon shared the microphone with his son Yorman and his two other singers, managing to remain in charge either with his masterful trademark soneos (vocal improvisations), his occasional bass playing or his dancing. He didn’t even slow down while signing autographs onstage.

D’Leon, whose career began in 1973, seems to be at his peak, even though his musical talent is often overshadowed by the tremendous energy of his live performances. He returns on Saturday for a double-header with Puerto Rican singer Tito Nieves at the Westin Bonaventure’s California Ballroom.

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