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.