Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Other things to read ...

I check in regularly with a lot of music blogs, and one of these days I plan to build a list of links for our sidebar here (I think I have too many blogs). But for now I'll just toss in a link to someplace cool every now and then. Today's cool: Africolombia. There you'll find lots of music and album art, but not a lot of narrative/context. Still it's quite a treasure trove. If you're hungry for narrative here's a decent article about the afro-colombian style of champeta.

Turntable Batucada (9/4)

WUAG is welcoming back UNC-Greensboro students with a free screening of the music documentary Brasilintime: Batucada com Discos. From what I can glean, it's about American and Brazilian hip hop djs trying to communicate in a turntable version of a samba batucada. Here's the official trailer:

Next Thursday (9/4) at 7 p.m., at the Weatherspoon Museum of Art, UNC-Greensboro, see calendar.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rumba takes baby steps

Eduardo and Stephanie say they will offer a beginner's rumba class on 9/7. It will be an intensive workshop for first-timers, no reservation required.

What: Intensive Beginner's Rumba Workshop
When: Sunday, September 7, 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Where: Upstairs studio at Triangle Dance Studios, 2603 S. Miami Blvd, RTP

Cost: $10, open to all.

"Sería un error perdertelo"

Maybe you want to get your Mexican regional music thang on this weekend. What's the best way to find out about the shows? You can listen to La Ley and hope to hear the ads, or you can head down to the tienda or taquería and see what's up on the wall. So, straight from the soda machine outside the Compare Foods in Raleigh, here are some of this week's events:

Grammy-winning norteño superstars Intocable will be at Disco Rodeo this Friday (August 29). Opening bands are Triny y la Leyenda and Grupo Cosmos. Triny y la Leyenda are a veteran tierra caliente band from Michoacan. I know nothing about Grupo Cosmos, but that's what YouTube's for, isn't it? Based on this video, Grupo Gosmos appears to be a norteño act (not at all to be confused with this awesome a capella/human-beat-box act also called Cosmos).

There was another poster up on the soda machine:

At Vivaldi Night Club on Saturday (August 30): Roddy and his band Rompiendo El Silencio with Costeño de Acapulco, Sendero Musical de Guerrero and Desafiados Musical. I know nothing about these acts, and the Google hasn't been any help at all. But according to the poster, it would be an error to miss it ...

Bio Ritmo gearing up for album tour

Bio Ritmo, who are set to drop their new Jon Fausty-engineered, full-length album Bionico in September, will be playing at Charlotte's Festival Latinoamericano on Sunday, October 12.

They're just touching down in N.C. before heading out to tour Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and uh, oh yeah, Guelph. That's Ontario. This Richmond band sure gets around. Wonder what the odds are they'll arrange a gig in the Triangle on their way to Charlotte? Ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseoh...

Here's a closeup from their last show at the Pour House in June:

Bionic Woman

Will be dishing more dirt on the CD soon...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Durham Jazz: DeLovely

Durham is a great jazz city. North Carolina is rich soil for its homegrown roots, nurtured by a canopy of jazz education (and appreciation) that stretches across the state.

Local diva Lois DeLoatch sang a gem of a concert on Friday night at the Hayti Heritage Center to release her new CD of jazz spirituals, Hymn to Freedom: Homage to Oscar Peterson.

Backing her were performance faculty from Eastern Carolina University-Greenville and UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as the deans of both Duke and North Carolina Central's jazz programs. Dr. Ira Wiggins (NCCU) played saxophones and flute, John V. Brown (Duke), upright acoustic bass, Ernest Turner (ECU), piano, and Thomas Taylor (NCCU, UNC), drums.

St. Joseph's Performance Hall is literally a sanctuary. As Taylor notes, the intimate hall has the shape and acoustics of a drum. That natural resonance suits DeLoatch's bluesy, low registers and sweet, pliant highs. Her voice was a dancer on traditional spirituals like "This Little Light of Mine," and melodies she cast lyrics to, making them her own, like Bobby Timmons' "Moanin' (Prayer)" and Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom."

The ensemble had opened the concert cold with a stunning instrumental, "In a Sentimental Mood." With the ease of dropping change into a jukebox, they instantly changed the atmosphere to an after hours nostalgia, abetted by Turner's Peterson-evoking touches on piano and Taylor's perpetualism on the brush and snare. Although DeLoatch singled out Wiggins' soprano sax playing, it was his flute playing that really captured my attention. Would be interesting to hear his warm, woody tone and intriguing improvisations go head to head with an Eddy Zervignon or an Andrea Brachfeld in a charanga setting.

One by one, DeLoatch conversed with the instrumentalists in a series of duets. This predilection comes, she says, from her background in a rural church on the Virginia/North Carolina border, where musical accompaniment was minimal and strictly come as you are. DeLoatch's family was in attendance, as were members of the many other 'families' in which she plays a community leadership role as a fundraiser and volunteer, among these: top Duke administrators, St. Joseph's Historic Foundation board members, and the 90.7 FM WNCU radio staff.

Concert proceeds benefitted the St. Joseph's Historic Foundation. DeLoatch's CD is available at Amazon and CD baby.

More live gigs featuring the participants of Friday's show are coming up soon: Sunday night (8/24), Thomas Taylor plays with the sax-led Brian Horton Trio at the new 202 Art Gallery Lounge across from Southpoint. And next Thursday (8/28) at the American Tobacco Complex, John Brown takes his Groove Shop out for a walk. Rather than his usual straight ahead jazz, Brown straps on an electric bass with the Groove Shop to play classic funk and R&B, so come prepared to boogie to Stevie Wonder, Sly, The Gap Band and Earth Wind & Fire.

See the Onda Carolina events calendar for more info.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Santino's Two Sides, Revisited

More on the lineup for La Fiesta del Pueblo...

This is my favorite pull quote from the Indyweek interview I did with Santino in August, 2006:

"I'm not going to deny that it was a very crazy rock 'n' roll life. The chicks and all that stuff, I really don't focus on all of that. I'm not a sexual object. I'm a Gemini."

--Santino in Indy Weekly, 8/2/06

If there are two sides to Santino, the Peruvian heavy metal rocker vs. craftsman of a more cosmopolitan Latin pop, I'm going to have a hard time choosing. The latest from the Santino camp is that his album, Indiocumentado, has been released by Milan/Time Warner, and they are pushing a new video single, "Nadie Es Como Tu" (his Sting cover of "Every Breath You Take").

Personally, I'm more entranced by the videos of Santino singing with Fragil, the band that catapulted him to fame in Peru as a teenager. I can't tell if this is recent reunion footage (?) or vintage '90s TV--and maybe that's a good thing:

Living in L.A., Santino's solo stuff now incorporates gypsy violins, reggaeton, rap, ska, dance, salsa/tropical and of course Andean sounds. His recent incarnation, and likely about what you will experience at La Fiesta, looks more like this:

He really is a Gemini.

This has nothing to do with anything, but ...

I saw this African Tonik video over at Ghetto Bassquake and I had an intense urge to share it with folks:

It's even better if you head on over to YouTube and choose the "watch in high quality" option.

Living Drum (Can't Stop The Rumba)

Who would have thought that just a few blocks from all those overcrowded nightspots and the tawdry hubbub on Glenwood Avenue on a Thursday night, there's the hip, relaxed and ample Mosaic Wine Lounge on Jones Street, a seemingly underused oasis?

A nice open air evening meant you could hear Tambor Vivo from around the corner, which worked better than a GPS to find the place: Just follow the call of the drums...
Shek your gruv thing

On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday nights, the Moroccan-themed bar boasts the international grooves of DJ Keith [Ward], a Greensboro native who has travelled here and there, living for a time in Spain and the Dominican Republic. It shows. He spins Latin in a cosmopolitan way with real sabor. I don't know if I've ever heard the "Elena Elena" plena in a nightclub, except when Sajaso mix it into their live descargas.

As anticipated, Eduardo and Stephanie Winston, of Durham's Paso Dance Studios, were there and itching to dance to some Cuban guaguanco.

Ay, mulata...!

Click on either of the photos to see a couple more from the rumba at my (new!) Flickr photostream.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fiesta Del Pueblo celebrates its quinceañera

The schedule is up for the fifteenth annual Fiesta Del Pueblo, Sept. 6 & 7 at the NC State Fairgrounds. The lineup for the event's quinceañera includes Peruvian rocker/heart-throb Santino, Charanga Carolina, rockers Tercer Divisa Nacional, Christian group El Trio de Hoy, Honduran band Los Silver Star (who incorporate punta, reggae, soca, salsa and merengue syles), "Santana-style quintet" Braco, and the "infectious Caribbean music" of Mickey Mills & Steel. The whole schedule can be found here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thursday, Live Rumba in Raleigh

From the Cubanophiles at Paso Dance Studios we receive word that Tambor Vivo, an Afro-Cuban percussion ensemble featuring Robert Cantrell, is playing at Mosaic Wine Lounge in Raleigh this Thursday (8/21) at 9 p.m.

No word on who else will be playing (?) yet, but in the past this group has included Beverly Botsford, Justin Hill, and invited friends.

My spidey sense tells me that Paso dancers Eduardo and Stephanie may be there dancing rumba, so it will be a rare chance to see this quintessential folkloric style danced to live music. Could it be something the tropical storm blew in from Cuba...? Matter of fact, Fay's skirting and hovering moves have been a little rumba-like...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Cuba and Canada joined forces Monday to celebrate Spain at Duke's Nasher Museum of Art, in the form of vocal/guitar duo Teresa Fernández and Ed Stephenson. The duo entertained the museum director's guests at a private preview of "El Greco and Velàzquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III," with a program of songs by Agustin Lara, Joaquin Rodrigo, Enrique Granados and others. The exhibition is set to open to the public on Friday (8/22).

Fernández, a Havana native, sings boleros, tangos, arias and chamber works with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra. She and her husband Gonzalo also perform as danzón dancers with UNC's Charanga Carolina.

Born in Toronto, Stephenson is a North Carolina School of the Arts alum and teaches at Meredith College. The Paco Band is his flamenco-jazz trio, with Sara Romweber and Billy Stewart; he is also a member of the North Carolina Guitar Quartet.

From The Grapevine: Tropic Orchestra

Ricardo "TNT" Diques, the slim, explosive singer formerly with Samecumba, formed his own band last November, and sources say they are getting ready to play out. The Tropic Orchestra's website is still under construction.

Diques says he recently married and had a baby with his wife, Karen. (Congratulations! Coincidentally, she's the daughter of ABC-11 TV news anchor Larry Stogner.) The couple will share vocals in Tropic along with Ivan Ramirez, better known as the heavy metal bassist in several Raleigh Latin rock bands. Known power players in the rhythm section include Jesse Rivera, bongo, and Abdala Saghir, timbales, while sources say recent transplant Ricardo Zayas will be one to watch on piano. Forecasters are also predicting heavy trombones.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Get to Know Your Local...

Timbalero: Brevan Hampden

Sonero: Nelson Delgado; Guiro and backing vocals: Ramon Ortiz

Trompetistas: Alberto Carrasquillo, Jay Kaufman

Saxofonistas: Wayne Leechford, Jason Gabriel

Pianista: Eric Hirsh, Bajista: Peter Kimosh, Trombonista: Andy Kleindienst

Conguero: Jose Sanchez

Just an excuse to post some not-so-recent photos of Orquesta GarDel. I took these on May 24, 2008 at Saxapahaw's River Mill concert series.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy Independence Day, Pakistan! (Aug. 14)

The Town 'N Country convenience store, corner of Dixon and University, is probably the last place you would expect to discover musical talent in the wee hours of the morning. It's one of few gas stations that stays open late in this part of Durham, but that's not the only reason I (and a steady stream of others) make my late-night pitstop there.

We go for the atmosphere. Asim, the night clerk, works the graveyard shift, and makes your shopping experience as friendly and no-hassle as you could possibly want it to be.

Last night, on my way home from Carmen's Colombian party, I stopped by as Ofcr. Drinker, of Durham's finest ("he's my best friend," Asim says), is asking for some C batteries to fix the headlight on a homeless man's bike, outside. Meanwhile, a girl with white and gold disco sunglasses comes in to put $20 on pump 3.

Regulars happen through, and Asim knows everybody's order--right down to the flavor of the cigarillo--as well as the mood they're in, from who's happy because his girlfriend is back in town, to who slips in and out for "the usual" with just a smile. Don't have a penny? Don't worry about it; he'll throw it in the till for you.

"It's like family here," says Asim. "They love me, they adore me. Especially the ladies," he says, dropping some change into the cash drawer. "They tell me I look like Jesus!"

I can see it; the imposing height, the long black hair, someone you can turn to in the middle of the night for salty snacks and smokes: Jesus in jeans and a wifebeater.

Tonight as I walk in, I don't see Asim right away. He's walking back to get something, and singing in a euphoric voice at the top of his lungs. As he comes back to the counter, I can see that this thing is a guitar.

"I didn't know you were a musician!" I blurt out. It all adds up; his easy demeanor and keeping musician's hours. He sings us a love song in Urdu, and tells me about his band, Dil Valay, how they were especially active in the late '90s, and how they once played for Mayor Daley in Chicago, and have a video on YouTube:

"It's a fusion," he says of their original songs, which they perform mostly at shows in the Pakistani community. No word on local gigs in the near future; but if you drop by the Town 'N Country after hours, you might be able to request something live.

Coming soon: Lyrics!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lest It Escape Mention...

...Sajaso played a hot set at Zydeco in Raleigh two weeks ago (8/1). Frank Vila was just cutting loose into a keyboard solo as I walked in late, somewhere near the end of the second set. So eager was I to get in, that I inadvertently by-passed the collection of door fees. So joyful was I to be there, once inside, that I gladly paid the $5 cover when called to my attention. A mere pittance to hear a good piano solo.

It was well worth staying for the third and final set, lots of dancers had turned out, relative to this jazz club venue. Serena Wiley plays a classy saxophone, with solos that reveal her jazz background; Andy Kleindienst wielded an electric bass that evening, rather than his usual trombone, subbing for Jade-Lin Chue. Leader Chino Casiano's's vocals were robust as usual, and well-balanced with the rest of the band. If memory serves, Ramon Ortiz, Jaime Roman, Jose Sanchez and Brevan Hampden were among the rhythm section.

It wasn't that Sajaso had gone out on a limb, or buffed their Cuban standards and meaty Eddie Palmieri charts to a high finish; this was just down and dirty salsa. Sometimes, the vibe is just on.


Now that's interesting. Suenalo! will be making a turn through the Carolinas this weekend from their homebase in Miami. I've never heard them live, but their myspace player has a Fela tribute with a Cuban-sounding title, and another song that rhymes "tiki" with "freaky" about a bus tour gone awry.

That's hope that doesn't befall them this Saturday (8/16), when they are scheduled for two gigs in one night--one in Cullowhee, playing a freshman orientation party for Western Carolina University students, and another at the Emerald Lounge in nearby Asheville. Who knows, you might even see Brevan Hampden there.

Ritmo Latino Highlights

Pepe Alva made some new fans at the Festival Ritmo Latino this year with his Andean-influenced pop, blending pan pipes and charango of his native Peru with rock instruments. Actually, Alva was born in the Midwest--Dayton, Ohio--but spent most of his childhood in his father's hometown of Trujillo, Peru. Now based in Miami (Florida, not Ohio), Pepe tours extensively in Peru, and sometimes shares the stage with his old running buddy Juanes. He said he's planning an English-language album, and is trying to build up more of a U.S. following in the university and indie rock circuits.

Rolando (left of center) plays flauta pan and charango in Pepe Alva's band

An especially cool moment came when he invited Cakalak Thunder, a Brazilian samba school from Greensboro who had performed their own set earlier, to provide mellow, undulating backing rhythms to his last few numbers.

Modern Aztec

Sertoma's cozy, wooded bowl is the perfect setting for Ritmo Latino, since it moved to Bond Park and switched to a free-admission format last year. The crafts and food vendors have room to grow, but there was a neat little hands-on rhythm tutorial happening in the pavilion. An elder handed me a bell and a clave as soon as I walked in, so I jammed with the circle for a few minutes before handing off to some other newcomers.

Los Concheros await their cue

Sones de Mexico headlined, who played a great concert at Durham's Carolina Theater in 2005. Fiddler Juan Rivera, who poses on a Chicago rooftop for the cover of their latest double-Grammy-nominated CD, was a standout. Juan Dies played a very beautiful electric baby bass, and Lorena Iñiguez, in tap heels and slinky long skirt, her arms akimbo, told a nuanced musical tale with her zapateado dancing on a mic-amplified box.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free Festival in Cary Sunday

SONES DE MEXICO from Chicago is headlining at the Festival Ritmo Latino today at Fred G. Bond Park, 801 High House Rd. in Cary.

Full schedule:

Main Stage - Sertoma Amphitheater

1:00 PM La Vazquez Dance Company
1:30 PM Cakalak Thunder "Brazilian Drums"
2:00 PM Carnavalito
3:00 PM Peruvian Dance Group
3:30 PM Pepe Alva
4:30 PM Dance Group Los Concheros
5:00 PM Sones de México Ensemble

Control in action

Dancing chicas, beware: you have competition. I was already fond of Control's brand of catchy, poppy cumbia norteña, but after seeing them live at Festival La Ley last week I think I count myself as a fan. After all, who can resist Paco?

paco does the spank

Maybe I just find their subversion of the seemingly dominant "dancing chicas" paradigm refreshing. Here's Paco (and the rest of Control) in action:

Grupo Control from bunchofpants on Vimeo.

I'm just a little jealous that while I was watching Control's opening numbers, Sylvia had Paco and fellow dancer Memo all to herself.

For more fun check out Control on YouTube.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Salsa On The Move

Orquesta GarDel played three sets at the Mosquito bar in Raleigh Thursday night; I missed the first, but heard blazing reports. The gathered assemblage included most of the usual usuals, but it appears Tim Smith has recently replaced Jason Gabriel on saxophone. (Or Saxapaphone, if you live in Alamance County.) The club is a little cryptic to approach, since the street address, 311 S. Harrington St., doesn't face the actual door. But, the bouncers were super cool, there's a great smoking balcony, inside there are a few semi-private dens and a small red-glowing dance box as the main salon. Dancers turned out, along with slickly dressed downtown folk. A few well-known DJs showed up to check out the band. Betto Herrera (Mambo Dinamico) was there representing and having fun, as were a lot of Paso A Paso dancers, who rigged up a rueda by the middle of the third set. Also, the Puerto Rican hometown crew was out in significant force, up through the second act, fanfriends of trumpeter Alberto Carrasquillo and backing vocalist Jaime Roman. Was it just me, or did Nelson Delgado put his own emoción into "Cuando Uno Se Enamora"? ("It's appropriate," he says, "the song calls for it.") I always get extra relish out of Andy Kleindienst's badass moñas. Eric Hirsh claims it was a Monk citation that floated past me on his piano solo in "La Agarro Bajando," I could have sworn he was in a Gershwin mood. He nearly had a sprained wrist by the end of the evening from performing keyboard runs. (Check it, the dancers still fall for the false ending they added to that Santa Rosa arrangement, right after Brevan Hampden's bombastic timbales solo.) There is no more sublime tumbao leader playing salsa here and now than bassist-of-the-sky Peter Kimosh; dude played half the night oblivious that he had lipstick traces on his cheek. Wayne Leechford blew mighty mighty, doubling on sax and flute, and Jose Sanchez did his reliable thang on the congas like it needed to be done. Ramón Ortiz took a bongo solo on the final descarga. Another new character was on trumpet, Al, a roommate of Brevan's but I didn't catch his last name. Anybody? Who or what else am I missing?

Gentlemen take heed: Some of the dancers were pleading for slower tunes by the end of the night. It will be interesting to see how they fit into George's Garage for the NC Salsa Festival on Saturday.

Losing Control with La Ley

For our first extravaganza, Lisa and I recently attended the 5th anniversary Festival De La Ley, sponsored by 96.9 FM La Ley, a Spanish-language sender which is owned by Curtis Media in Raleigh. I have to hand it to Julie Garza, La Ley's programming director, for pulling off a huge event with her usual grace under fire. She runs a tight ship, yet made room for a couple of last minute castaways on the media roster (Lisa and myself). This is our third year attending La Ley's anniversary party, and while 2006 may have been my favorite thus far, this year offered ample espectaculo--with special emphasis on "culo." I speak of course of headliners--who we almost missed, they arrived so late!--Grupo Control.

Now, something about Control makes ladies seem to lose it. I was skeptical at first, having only seen their act on YouTube. To speak plainly, this is the only Mexican Regional group I have ever seen that has regular band members who are solely designated dancers. That's right, they don't sing backup, don't play accordions, or keyboards or drumpads. They work it like Chippendale cowboys in an aerobics class.

There are four designated dancers in total, but the team of Memo (Guillermo) Lopez and Paco Garza seem to be the stars, either new or returning to the band after a hiatus. Unbelievably, I have them to myself during the band's first couple of songs, as they wait in the wings to be introduced.

"I saw you on YouTube," is my brave entree in English.

"You like?" asks Memo.

"Well, I mean, what's not to like," I ventured on. "But I was really surprised to see this kind of dancing with this music. Are you professional dancers?"

"Si," says Paco, switching to Spanish. "I've been dancing for 5 years."

"All different styles?"

"Yeah, everything, folk, jazz, salsa, merengue, cumbia," says Paco. That was in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

"I danced folkloric dancing in Mexico," says Memo. He's from Reynosa, or Tamaulipas? I can't quite make it out. He's worked quinceañeras too, and like Paco, trained in the same variety of styles.

"The two of us have a very similar way of dancing," says Paco. "A little different from the other two guys, but we have a good chemistry between the four of us."

Control's brand of dirty dancing has spread in popularity to young men dancing in quinceañera choreographies. I ask them what they would say to those who might regard a hip-gyrating all male revue as less than stereotypically "macho," but they don't seem to understand the question. Instead, we talk about where the "sexy" moves came from.

"I love salsa," Paco admits. "We take a little bit from salsa and merengue, and mix it up. There are some steps that resemble the cumbias. It's a little bit of everything." (Judging from YouTube samples of ordinary humanity, my guess is that banda and durangense are also sources.)

Pretty soon the crowd noise rises to shrill; it's time for their big entrance. I wish them luck, they kiss me on the cheek and head out on stage, leaving behind the scent of cologne and spandex.

Friday, August 8, 2008

¿Que Onda, Carolina?

I met Lisa doing radio at WXDU--for awhile, our programs were back to back on Wednesday nights, her global take on playlist following my Latin specialty show, "Azucar y Candela." Often she'd bring an extra beer, and I'd linger on into her show, enjoying her sets and providing occasional on-air banter. We discovered we had a certain synergy, born of our common love of Latin grooves, and our overlapping, yet slightly different areas of expertise. We hope that that synergy will continue to feed this blog.

Later, Lisa collaborated with me on some coverage of the Triangle Latin music scene for the Independent Weekly. We trekked around to various festivals for over a year, shooting photos, interviewing artists and taking in the styles and enthusiasms of the fans. Lisa is a great companion at shows because of her independent spirit, her open mind and ears, and of course, her fantastic eye. To my utter delight, her photos and video will continue to decorate these dispatches. Also, she brings her graphic design skills and blogging experience to this project, for which I dedicate to her my thanks!

Lisa and I conceived of this blog as a way to take readers backstage with us, wherever we happen to be following local live music. We also want to give exposure to artists, explore and expand our own tastes, and document the incredible variety of Latin scenes that are "local" here in Durham and North Carolina. From salsa to mambo to capoeira, from sonidero to durangense and tierra caliente, and whatever else happens to activate our motion sensors, we want to take it all in. In other words, we aren't sure yet what all this blog will encompass, but we wanted a place to share our musical journeys. Whether we ourselves wind up in the cheap seats or front row, Onda Carolina is your laminated, all access pass.