On May 7, 1970, Rafael Cortijo met a group of lifelong friends in New York City to embark on a musical journey back to his Afro-Caribbean roots. For the first time ever in a recording venture, the famous Puerto Rican percussionist, leading ambassador of bomba and plena music since the '50s, decided to express the raw essence of his repertoire of island rhythms, stripping them of orchestration with the idea of recreating in the studio the drumming fiestas he'd enjoyed as a boy in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was accompanied by fellow percussionist (and partner on this production) Francisco Kako Bastar and singers Rafael Chivirico Davila (lead vocals) and Ismael Rivera (chorus), the outstanding artists of Latin music at that time, who had also grown up with Cortijo in the streets of San Juan. The result of this legendary session was the 1970 album Ritmos y Cantos Callejeros by Cortijo y Kako y Sus Tambores, an essential contribution to the sonorous vitality and sense of identity that preceded the salsa boom in New York and the Caribbean. While a new generation of immigrants of Latin origin, mostly Puerto Ricans, took their drums to Central Park and out onto the streets of the Bronx to make their way in New York, Cortijo and his friends chose to reclaim the immense wealth of their Puerto Rican drumming heritage, as well as the link between this legacy and popular music of the day. Yet Cortijo was hardly a folklorist; he always adopted an approach more pragmatic than orthodox, and on Ritmos y Cantos Callejeros, as on all of their bomba and plena recordings, Cortijo and Kako use mostly Afro-Cuban percussion instruments (congas, timbales, and bongos), which they considered more suitable than their Puerto Rican equivalents such as traditional bomba barrels and plena panderos. Cortijo recorded two more LPs between 1969 and 1971, Noche de Temporal and Volumen 2; all three were released on the Ansonia label. Noche de Temporal and Volumen 2 emphasize the dialogue between Puerto Rican and Cuban styles, with the outstanding participation of the Cuban musician Javier Vazquez, first known as the pianist for La Sonora Matancera, and then as one of the leading arrangers for the salsa produced in New York in the '70s. The Ansonia Years gathers the best recordings from this trio of albums, with most tracks reissued here for the first time.