Salsa savvy

Most people reach a point in their lives where, though they may not know everything, they at least know what they like. Or, as is even more often the case, what they do not like. Until this past week, I thought that I had reached that point, at least when it came to music, anyway. The Susie Hansen Latin Band has shown me that I've still got a lot to learn.

The band recently released their third album, "Representante de la Salsa," a Latin jazz and salsa album that mixes original works with classic covers. Led by Mount Washington resident Susie Hansen and her electric violin, the band is well known in the Burbank and Glendale areas for the large number of concerts and festivals they perform in each year. Having listened to the new CD — on repeat, all day, for several days — I can definitely see the appeal.

The band is quite obviously having fun on each and every track of the album. It's hard not to get up and dance while listening to lead vocalists George Balmaseda and Kaspar Abbo's voices bounce along as Hansen's highly capable group of musicians play their upbeat numbers. Believe me, I tried.

Several of the album's 11 tracks are in Spanish, but there are also a handful in English that almost anyone could sing along to, including a cover of "Beyond the Sea" and a medley of classic Frank Sinatra tunes such as "Fly Me to the Moon" and "It Had to Be You."

Personally, I love Sinatra, so it takes an incredibly talented singer to impress me with a cover of one of Old Blue Eyes' songs. Kaspar Abbo not only does the job, but belts out the hits in such a mesmerizing way that I couldn't help but sing along.

The album, while raucously fun and upbeat, has a kind of hypnotic quality. Each track smoothly blends right into the next, making it difficult to decide when to turn the thing off, especially if your CD player automatically repeats, like mine. I often did not know where one song ended and another began, though it hardly mattered. It is very likely that I would have just continued to start the album over anyway, considering how much fun I was having listening to the songs.

I am usually hesitant to rave so dramatically about the quality of a certain book, band, or film, but I just cannot seem to help myself. Hansen's music is simply too much fun. While I tend to enjoy music of almost any genre, I never really considered myself a fan of jazz or salsa. The Susie Hansen Latin Band has somehow turned me into a connoisseur of both.

If you have ever found yourself in the mood to dance around your living room, or are just looking for a fun bunch of songs to play in the background as you go about your day, Representante de la Salsa is most definitely the album for you.

Brian McGackin is an alumnus of USC's graduate creative writing program, where he focused on poetry and literary critical analysis.


Who: The Susie Hansen Latin Band

What: "Representante de la Salsa," the band's third album

Where: Available for purchase online at


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