El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, commonly known as El Gran Combo, is a Puerto Rican Salsa music orchestra. It is Puerto Rico's most successful musical group, and one of the most popular salsa orchestras across Latin America. The group received the moniker La Universidad de la Salsa (The University of Salsa) in Colombia, due to the sheer number of famous salsa musicians and singers who developed their careers with it, who started with the group (particularly Andy MontaÃ±ez), or who were occasionally backed up by the band (including Celia Cruz, HÃ©ctor Lavoe and La India). El Gran Combo was founded in May 1962, by Rafael Ithier. Ithier is still nominally its musical director, and he and saxophonist Eddie "La Bala" PÃ©rez are the only remaining members from the band's original lineup. as of 2010[update] Willie Sotelo, who joined the group in 2006 as pianist, has become the band's de facto musical director on tours, with Ithier conducting the group and playing occasionally in select live performances. They are still actively performing after 47 years together.
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