Searching For A Memory
(Busco Tu Recuerdo)

“Charlie’s kid.”  

That’s what Eddie Palmieri calls me.  My father Charlie Figueroa was a singer of romantic boleros back in the 1950's, one of the best, whose records still sell to this day.  But he passed away when I was just a little boy, a victim of his 'bohemian lifestyle'.  But those who knew him, from Eddie and Yomo Toro to Charlie’s sister, my Aunt Blanca, all say that I look like him, that I have the same sense of humor and that I inherited his musical talent.  

As a little boy I tried to imagine my father, searching for his memory.  But because I never knew him all I had was a dream, just like the lyrics in his song “Busco Tu Recuerdo”.  For many years I didn't want to acknowledge him or pay him tribute: the sense of abandonment was too painful.  But, at the urging of my producer, Rachel Faro, I decided to create an album of his songs but presented with my own modern Latin jazz perspective. 

With the generous support of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola and other great artists this album has gone beyond my wildest dreams, including finding my own voice as a singer. We assembled a core band with an array of incredible special guests and arrangers, including alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpet master John DaVersa, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Munir Hossn and Cuban flautist Magela Herrera and together embarked on one of the greatest musical experiences of my life. 

This album embodies my dream of transforming Charlie’s romantic and often bitter ballads into my own world of sophisticated Latin jazz.  I'm sure that Charlie's spirit is somewhere up there smiling and enjoying the music, with the pride of the father he could have been in a different world and time. 

Sammy Figueroa
, percussion & vocals 
Gonzalo Rubalcaba, piano (except #9) 
Aymée Nuviola, vocals (#1, 3, 7, 10) 
Ricardo Rodriguez, double bass 
Ludwig Afonso, drums 
Felipe LaMoglia, tenor sax (except 7 & 9) 
Francisco Dimas, trumpet (except 7 & 9)

Special Guests: 
Miguel Zenon, alto sax (1 & 8) 
John Daversa, trumpet (2) 
Munir Hossn, guitar & percussion (9) 
Magela Herrera, flute (9)


 Recorded at Criteria Studios Miami, April-May 2022 
Engineered by Carlos Alvarez 
Additional engineering at Afterhours Studios Miami by Hal Batt, August 2022 
Mixed by Hal Batt Afterhours Studios, August – September 2022 
Mastered at Afterhours Studios by Jacob Batt, February 2023 
Liner Notes by Rachel Faro & Sammy Figueroa 

This recording was made possible by a Creative Residency Grant from the Jazz Road initiative at SouthArts, funded by the Doris Duke and Andrew Mellon Foundations. 

“Busco Tu Recuerdo” and “No Llores Mas” excerpts courtesy of Discos Fuentes 

The Songs: 

1. Como Arrullo De Palmas (Like the Whispering Palms)  5:42 
(composed by Ernesto Lecuona, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba) 

This classic Cuban song invokes his nostalgia for the beauty of Charlie’s native Puerto Rico. The leaves of the palm trees whisper like a lullaby in the tropical breezes. 
Vocals by Aymée Nuviola 
Special guest: Miguel Zenon, alto sax 

2. Tú Serás Mía (You Will Be Mine) 6:38 
(composed by Pedro Flores, arrangement by John Daversa) 
When we invited John DaVersa, the multiple Grammy-winning trumpetist and arranger, to participate on this project we hardly expected that he would come up with this dynamic mariachi-influenced arrangement.  But I guess that’s what you get when you invite someone from Southern California to your party! 
Special guest: John Daversa, trumpet 

3. Madrigal 5:00 
 (composed by Rafael Hernandez, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba) 
An exquisite performance of this breathlessly romantic ballad by Aymée Nuviola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. 
Vocals by Aymée Nuviola 

4. Busco Tu Recuerdo (excerpt) 00:39 
Charlie Figueroa’s original recording. 

5. Busco Tu Recuerdo (Searching For A Memory) 7:43 
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Felipe LaMoglia) 
This song was Charlie’s biggest hit.  It speaks of searching for a memory of a lost love -- but there is no memory – it’s just a dream.  Sammy says, “I relate to this as I too tried to find a memory -- that of the father I never knew – left only with a dream.  Most importantly, late in the recording of the album I was finally ready to acknowledge my biggest inheritance from Charley: I rediscovered my own voice as a singer!” 
Vocals by Sammy Figueroa 

6. Plegaria De Amor (A Prayer of Love) 6:25 
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba) 
This simple arrangement reflects the peaceful prayer of Charlie’s song. 

7. Culpa Al Destino (The Fault of Fate) 2:45 
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba) 
When Aymée first heard Charlie Figueroa’s old recordings she called Sammy and insisted on being part of the album.  As a singer she feels the same reckless romanticism that Charlie’s voice invokes and as an artist she has a real commitment to the tradition of romantic boleros.  Here she gives a delightful performance of a classic ballad. 
Vocals by Aymée Nuviola 

8. Añoranzas (Longing) 10:14 
(composed by Pedro Flores, arrangement by Ricardo Rodriguez) 
In this song Charlie sang of his nostalgia for his homeland of Puerto Rico.  This recording is populated by Puerto Rican players: alto sax player Miguel Zenon, bassist and arranger Ricky Rodriguez and Sammy himself on various percussion.  The arrangement pays tribute to this nostalgia with touches of bomba and plena, a danzon introduction and extended solos by both maestros, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Miguel Zenon. 
Special guest Miguel Zenon, alto sax 

9. Margie 3:55 
(composed by Pedro Flores, arrangement by Munir Hossn) 
And now for something completely different!  Sammy invited Munir Hossn, the extraordinary Brazilian multi-instrumentalist, to join us on this recording and he transformed this romantic bolero into a samba!  According to Sammy’s Aunt Blanca, there was a beautiful tall blonde woman named Margie who came to all of Charlie’s shows and then stayed by his side in the hospital at the end of his days. 
Special guests: Munir Hossn, guitar & percussion; Magalys Herrera, flute 

10. El Ultimo Suspiro (The Last Breath) 7:49 
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Ricardo Rodriguez) 
This was one of the last songs that Charlie recorded in his brief life.  Aymée Nuviola gives her heart and soul to her interpretation, which encourages one to sing even when one loses faith, to sing even when hope is gone. 
Vocals by Aymée Nuviola & Sammy Figueroa 

11. No Llores Mas (Don’t Cry Anymore) (excerpt) 1:27 
(composed by Placido Acevedo) 
This excerpt features the voice of Charlie Figueroa himself, as if he is singing to the little boy -- “don’t cry anymore, I love you”.  This brings the album to a close with a healing message, a sense of closure and acceptance.
Original recording by Charlie Figueroa 


Carlos Fabriciano Figueroa Rosario, or Charlie Figueroa, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico on November 4, 1921. His first recordings, in Puerto Rico for RCA Victor, were made in December 1940, when he was only 19 years old, in a duo with his sister Carmen as Los Hermanos Figueroa and in a duo with Rafaelito Castro with Conjunto Tipico Ladi, directed by Ladislao ‘Ladi’ Martinez.  (It’s worth mentioning that Tito Rodriguez started his recording career a year earlier, in November 1939, with the same group!)  He also recorded traditional Puerto Rican music with Odilio Gonzalez and El Conjunto America. 

Soon Charlie became a singer with the popular Rafael Muñoz Orchestra, at the Escambron Beach Club. As World War II approached he was drafted into the army, but he never did leave Puerto Rico for the front. It seems that the local officers decided he should stay and entertain the troops stationed on the island – especially because the officers’ local girlfriends loved Charlie’s singing talents and good looks! 

After the war ended Charlie headed to New York, singing with many different groups and orchestras and becoming a mainstay at the Tropicana Nightclub in the Bronx. It was there that he was first seen and heard by the Colombian empresario Antonio ‘Toño’ Fuentes, the founder and owner of Discos Fuentes, which changed his life forever. 

Sr. Fuentes not only negotiated with RCA to take over the rights to Charlie’s previous recordings he also signed Charlie to his own label, producing over fifty recordings, many with the popular group La Sonora Malecón Club and many with songs by Colombia’s great songwriter José Palomino Barros.  Barros’ compositions such as “El Ultimo Suspiro’, ‘No Pises En Mi Camino’ and especially ‘Busco Tu Recuerdo’, Charlie’s greatest hit, became the heart of Charlie’s repertoire. 

Charlie Figueroa has often been compared to Daniel Santos, another great Puerto Rican singer of boleros, and it is possible that Fuentes was hoping to take advantage of Santos’ popularity by releasing Charlie’s recordings in the same style.  Certainly, Charlie was capable of singing in many styles and there are those who feel that Charlie’s singing even surpasses Santos in expression, tone, and phrasing.  But of course, Daniel Santos’ career spanned many decades while Charlie Figueroa was a flame blown out too soon. 

Traveling between New York and Colombia throughout the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Charlie Figueroa became a star, recording hit records and appearing in all the great clubs of Latin America.   However, according to his sister Blanca, throughout his recording and touring, all that Charlie did was ‘sing and drink, drink and sing’.  In his twenties he was advised to stop drinking by his doctor but, hopelessly addicted, he ignored this advice and continued his nocturnal lifestyle.  At his last recording he was so ill he could not stand and just a few days later, two weeks before his 34th birthday, on October 25, 1955, he succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver. 

Although Charlie Figueroa did not attain superstar fame in Puerto Rico or even in New York City where he developed most of his career, in Latin American countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Perú, Ecuador, Panamá and Costa Rica, Charlie reached a high level of popularity which remains to this day.  In October 2016 the Costa Rican writer and music lover Mario Zaldivar Rivera, paid tribute to Charlie in his program "Eres Inolvidable" through Radio Sinfonola de Costa Rica.   There are numerous ‘biografias’ and ‘homenajes’ to Charlie on YouTube and Charlie Figueroa’s recordings, constantly reconfigured and released as new compilations by Discos Fuentes, are still available on all streaming platforms and on CD and even vinyl, his warm voice and emotional delivery always invoking nostalgia and romance. 

Charlie Figueroa, through his wonderful voice, is truly ‘El Inolvidable’ – the unforgettable one.  And now, his son, the famed percussionist Sammy Figueroa, pays homage to the father who abandoned him as a child and yet bequeathed him a grand musical talent.