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Trio San Juan

One of the best of the Puerto Rican trios that played the beautiful boleros of the 40’s and 50’s, the Trio San Juan was formed in 1948 in New York City by Juan Antonio “Johnny” Albino, originally from Yauco, Puerto Rico. The trio at that time included Albino as lead singer and third guitar, José Ramón Ortíz, second guitar and second voice, and Jaime Gonzalez, first guitar.

Near the end of 1948, Felix “Ola” Martinez replaced Gonzalez and the next year, Santiago “Chago” Alvarado replaced Ortiz.

It was Martinez that had the most pronounced effect on creating the unique sound that made the trio famous. Born in Puerto Rico, his father played the tres and guitar and was a member of the Trio Los Negros. Growing up in a musical family certainly helped Martinez, who also went on to play the tres and guitar, as well as the cuatro. He joined the trio after playing with the Celso Vega Quintet and with the Conjunto de Claudio Ferrer. In addition to first guitar, Martinez’ affable and eloquent style was perfectly suited to act spokesman for the trio; introducing the band and its songs.

Alvarado, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, was songwriter in addition to second voice and guitar. Son of noted musician, Júlio Alvarado, he composed 27 songs that were recorded by the trio, including “Pasión de amor” and Siete notas de amor.

Albino and his trio made quite a reputation for themselves singing songs such as “A tres voces y tres guitarras”, “Tu tormento”, “Bajo un palmar”, by Pedro Flores and “Cosas como tu”. Unfortunately, since the band recorded for a record label, Verne, without international distribution, the group was less known outside of Puerto Rico and New York.

In 1951, the trio took its first international tour, performing in Colombia and Venezuela, and the following year in Brazil but the tour was cut short in Argentina with the death of Eva Peron.

Returning to New York, the trio continued performing and recording the music that made them famous, until friction between various members of the band forced a split. Martinez and Alvarado both left to form a new band: Trio Casino de Santurce, along with Cheito Gonzalez. For his part, Albino kept the name Trio San Juan alive with the addition of Máximo Torres and Felipe Acevedo.

Although Martinez and Alvarado both returned to the band, Albino left in 1958 to join Trio Los Panchos as a replacement for Hernando Aviles. Trio San Juan continued performing but at that late stage in the evolution of the band, it was clear that the “sound” was not the same and not nearly as successful.

Despite this, the legacy of the Trio San Juan was an enduring body of boleros performed as few others could and enjoyed by many throughout Latin America and the US. Despite their many recordings, few are available on modern media.

Discography

Serenata (2000)

Trio San Juan (1999)

Lo Mejor (1997)

Johnny Albino y su Trio SSan Juan (1996)

Tesoros Musicales (1991)

Con el Trio San Juan (----)

Mi Tesoro (----)

Inolvidables del Bolero (----)