I wrote "Pura Vida" while living in Costa Rica for much of 2020. When I returned to New York I called my old friend Hector Martignon, who is the greatest Latin musician I know, and asked if he could "Latinize" my Gringo-ass arrangement. Man, did he ever!
Together, we hired the best musicians from the Latin scene, including young lions like percussionist Samuel Torres, and bassist Gabriel Vivas and legends like the fiery Roberto Quintero on timbales and Nelson Gonzales on trés (...I had to wait because he was touring with J-Lo...). The horn players are all veterans of the great Latin salsa bands, and masters all. I was hoping to get everybody together into a studio, but since it was in the middle of Covid, each part was put down in the musicians' own apartments with their own recording gear. Nonetheless, it sounds and feels to me like we are all grooving together; at a party in Costa Rica, no less!
Then I added two of my favorite singers, Synia Carrol and Elise Morris for background vocals. Marimba is the heart of Costa Rican music, so I had William Ramos send us his bubbling marimba part from San José, CR. At my request, Hector had already composed a typical Latin coda, called the Montuno, which I was crazy about. Just when I thought the arrangement was complete, I saw a salsa concert and was blown away by the "Coro" - the vocal chorus accompanying the Montuno at the end of many salsa songs - and the "Soneo", which is the improvised, passionate and muy romantico part sung above the Coro. The great Cuban singer songwriter David Oquendo was the guy for this. He came to my studio and laid down all 4 harmony parts of the Coro one after the other, then added his glorious Soneo in one take. That was really the icing on the cake, for me.I knew I had something!
I adore Costa Rica, and more and more it feels like, with all it's challenges, this country has gotten it incredibly right. They have no army. They have education for all, and they are a "Blue Zone"; meaning that their people live as long and healthy lives as anywhere on Earth. Moreover, they treasure and protect their natural resources as the divine gifts that they are. "Pura Vida" (pure life) is so much more than a catch phrase for the Costa Rican people. It's a philosophy of living; healthy in mind and body, kind, humorous, responsible, resourceful, and always ready for a good time. What the world needs now is... "Pura Vida"... (BTW I hope to make a more "official" video in Costa Rica this year. Stay tuned)