Bandleader Quintanilla asks, What's in a name?

Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:36pm EST
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By Leila Cobo

MIAMI (Billboard) - In a world where name recognition is everything, A.B. Quintanilla has flipped conventional wisdom by regularly tinkering with his group's moniker.

What began as A.B. Quintanilla III y Los Kumbia Kings evolved into A.B. Quintanilla III Presents Kumbia Kings, and finally A.B. Quintanilla III Presents Kumbia All Starz.

The mutations are not in name only. Possibly no other group in contemporary Latin music has produced as many offshoots as Quintanilla's Kumbia Kings and Kumbia All Starz, with a roster of alumni that includes Frankie J, DJ Kane and K1.

Through it all, Quintanilla's fan base has remained stable, a remarkable feat for a bandleader who is not a lead singer.

But as arranger/producer/composer/bassist, Quintanilla is the architect of a particular urban cumbia sound that has managed to transcend years, names and vocalists. (Traditional cumbia is the music for a dance of short sliding step that originated among African slaves on Colombia's Atlantic coast.)

"In the end, I think I can change the name to A.B. Quintanilla and whatever," Quintanilla said on the phone from Argentina, where he's filming three videos for new album "Planeta Kumbia." Due March 4 on EMI/Televisa, the 15-track set is his sophomore album with his new group, Kumbia All Starz, following his much-publicized breakup with longtime musical partner Cruz Martinez.

"The thing about it is, when people are buying Coca-Cola or Tide, it always has to be new and improved. Stronger-smelling, fresher," Quintanilla said. "But even though the chemicals may change, it's still the same brand. I believe when people hear 'A.B. Quintanilla,' they know they're going to buy a quality cumbia album."

Caught up in an ongoing dispute with Martinez over the rights to the Kumbia Kings name, Quintanilla is now focused on Kumbia All Starz. The group's debut album, 2006's "From KK to Kumbia All Starz," has sold nearly 200,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.   Continued...