Friday, October 31, 2008


Bio Ritmo is about to play live in the studio on WNYC today, THIS HOUR (2:45-3:00).

Tune In:
WNYC 93.9 (new york city) "soundcheck"

Update 2:47 pm: They just started with "Lisandra" from the new Biónico.

Blogging some notes from the interview:

Nice introduction describes new album as "post salsa" for its spirit of experimentation; plays some Willie Colon from the Malo album. Lists Bio Ritmo's musicians, there a few names I do not know...Arnaldo Marrero, bongo [from Bayamon], J.C. Kuhl, saxophone [from Richmond]. The rest are regulars.

Rei Alvarez: our mission has always been to play original music but in that style, from "a time before [salsa] became a formula."

What happened to salsa?
Rei: it's like a relationship, after awhile the passion dies off and you settle into a routine. The 80s was a pretty cool time for salsa but it was a pretty set formula, even down to the lyrics, it lost its social consciousness. That helped it sell more.

Origin of the name Bio Ritmo?

The original bongo player Jim Thompson came up with the name. We were roughly half Latinos and half Americans, so the pronunciation is meant to reflect that. [Rei reveals something I never knew, which is that the "correct" pronunciation is "Bio" (like English "biology") and "Ritmo" (Spanish).]

Richmond--how big a Latino community?

It's not so much that, as the art and music community, which is pretty awesome. Art music and food, I should say, my favorite three things. It's a town with a lot of character, we like vintage, old stuff.

That Roland synthesizer is pretty vintage.
Marlysse: Actually, to get those sounds, I'm using the Nord (sp?) that's on it, which has a database of all the old keyboard sounds.

You're using the smaller new thing to get the older sounds.

Yeah, the older equipment is heavy, it's unreliable, it breaks down. And I can't even lift it.

Does Bio Ritmo have a post-salsa scene in Richmond?
Rei: Well there's Bio Ritmo. There's bands like (something?) Caribe, they brought a Latin flavor, but I think we were the first salsa, straight up...

Post-salsa! [interviewer wants to stick to this label]

...yeah...we've had great support from the very first day in Richmond, that's kept us alive these 17 years.

Closing number, "Shoe Shine."

Rei: it's about being ready for the next step in life, you've got to have your shoes shined.

2:58 pm: playing "Shoe Shine."

Bio Ritmo is playing S.O.B.'s tonight (10/31) in New York City. 2 shows, at 8 and 10, dance lesson at 7 pm.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

iTunes U

Hear my interview last week with Bobby Sanabria, and other past episodes of "Azucar y Candela," at iTunes U. This is educational audio available for FREE via the iTunes store.

To access, load the iTunes store and select:
iTunes U / Universities / Duke / Student Life / WXDU / WXDU Interviews

Need help? Get a demo of iTunes U here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mystery Band

The Aquarius Musical Organization. Spotted in a parking lot in Durham.

sign of the seahorse

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

RADIO ALERT: Interviews and Ticket Giveaways on AZUCAR y CANDELA Wednesday!

I will have two different guests in the studio tomorrow on WXDU "Azucar y Candela" to fill us in on exciting upcoming events this weekend.

First, Edwin Dubois, owner of Rumba D'Cache in Greensboro, will join me to discuss the El Gran Combo concert he is staging Saturday night (11/1). Tickets will be given away in the first hour, so listen in!

Then, in the second hour, I will be welcoming Miguel Rojas, director of the Latin American Film Festival which opens November 2. Many films in this excellent, free, multi-campus series feature music this year, from Cuban hip hop to Beny More and Brazilian batucada. We will play some music and introduce the festival lineup, tomorrow at 7 pm.

Tune In:
AZUCAR y CANDELA, Wednesday (10/28) 5:30-7:30 pm, WXDU 88.7 FM or stream with iTunes at

The Sanabria Effect

Friday was definitely hip. Reviews of PrimeraJazz and Bobby Sanabria with Duke's big band.

PrimeraJazz sparkled Friday evening for a well turned-out crowd at the NC Art Museum's "Sabor Latino" Art in the Evening party. I came in between sets, and had time to make the rounds and order a nice Spanish wine with some sweet potato fries (one of the South's true delicacies) as I settled in for set 2. I've rarely seen an unknown group capture the ear of a crowd that was actively feeding and drinking, but this audience ate up the music with the same gusto as they consumed their Cuban pork tortillas and mango and cheese sampler plates. Even as the party was winding down, intent listeners were still lingering in a circle around the band, arms folded, concentrating on the next change in the weather: from stirring salsa montunos to the soulful minimalism of an Ahmad Jamal-style piano line, a jolt of uppity New Orleans clave, or a classical piano solo in the coda of Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia." Al Strong's trumpet sailed over the modulated seas of so much rhythm (bateria and conga, bass and piano), and the mood was percolating. Among fellow thrill-seekers was Eduardo Winston of Paso, and we shared the limelight for a few unplanned demos of casino dance steps. Rather than hold back when the rumba calls, I've long ago learned that the best response is always to answer in the affirmative.


From Raleigh, I jetted back to Durham in time to hear the Duke University Jazz Ensemble finishing out their first set with "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." Suitably warmed up, I went backstage at intermission to say hi to Bobby Sanabria, our distinguished visitor of the last week, who was getting ready to lead the concert's second half. These are heavy charts; Machito, Puente; nothing for any swing band to take for granted. Bobby's knack is to up the ante, turning up the tempo on "Frenzy" for added hyperbole, adding a frisky drum solo to "Mambo Beat" (which earned him a standing ovation), and juicing up the caboose of his saxophone section with an all-male cha-cha revue during "Since I Fell for You."

(click on photo to see the series)
Since I Fell For You

Michael Philip Mossman's as yet unrecorded "Hour of Darkness" grew on me like an invasive plant, as I heard it day to day in rehearsals and the concert hall. I'm sure it will be on somebody's next album. Bobby dedicated it to the current administration, and only one person in the audience walked out (ha!). The trombones took solo honors, with Mitch Butler delivering bluesy sabor and Evan Ringel (a Hillsborough high school student) standing tall. The Sanabria effect even transformed the Ensemble's mild-mannered guitar player, Andrew Walker, into a second-line drum major who led game members of the audience on a procession through the hall for the closing "Tururato" re-packaged as a New Orleans homage.

CD sales of Bobby's Grammy-nominated Big Band Urban Folktales after the show were brisk, paving the way (we hope?) for future visits. "I'd like to bring my nonet down to the [new downtown Durham] arts center," says Sanabria, referring to his smoking Latin jazz nine-piece Ascención.

To preview that in your mind's eye, here's a full-length clip of Bobby Sanabria & Ascención playing "Be Bop" at the 2006 Modern Drummer festival:

And for a blast from the past, get a peek at Sanabria here playing drums on a 1984 television show called Heatwave, backing Mongo Santamaria on an uptight (and outtasight) Marty Sheller tune "Pirana":

Monday, October 27, 2008

El Gran Combo in Greensboro Saturday (11/1)

Staggering news just in: Puerto Rico's legendary salsa band El Gran Combo is playing in Greensboro this Saturday (11/1) at a venue called Rumba D'Cache.

These are the details as passed along to me by Jack Wolf: Tickets are $35/advance, $40/door, $50/table or $100/VIP table. Doors will open at 8 pm and show begins at 11 pm.

This story is developing! I'll be doing my best to confirm details with the promoters and post more here ASAP.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blogging Bobby on WNCU

Some notes as I listen to Bobby's very nice WNCU interview, conducted by B.H. Hudson:

Bobby Sanabria's mission is to perform, inspire, entertain and also to educate the audience, so expect to participate, to enjoy yourself, learn something and also "take it to a spiritual level" at the concert tonight.

Bobby points out that a lot of Puerto Rican contributions to jazz aren't remembered when it comes to composers, such as Juan Tizol who wrote "Caravan."

"It's hipper to share it," Bobby says. If you love this music and are already hip, don't just show up at the concert, or listen on your iPod at work knowing how hip you are and how "corny" everyone else is. Share it with a friend!

Late addition: I couldn't type fast enough...just remembered something else, Bobby talked about the influence on him of his father's taste in music (something he mentioned to me too, 2 years ago in our Atlanta interview). His father worked every day and had a long commute and would relax in a lazy boy in the evening with a cigar, and listen to music--all kinds of music. Latin music but also James Brown, for instance. And Bobby would be like, Dad, you like this music too? And his father answers to the effect of, "Yes. If it's good, it's good." So this was an attitude Bobby took with him in life.

The Duke Jazz Ensemble will be backing Bobby tonight: "It's really a jazz orchestra," Bobby points out, with full trumpets, saxophones, trombones and rhythm section featuring local percussionists Pako Santiago and Bradley Simmons.

"When you have a good drummer, you have to bring your A game," opines Hudson, and John Brown agrees, says the students are really stepping up to the plate. Expect a concert "not to be missed," says Brown.

Tonight's program will go something like this:

Bradley Simmons & Djembe & Afro-Cuban Ensembles.
Jazz Ensemble will play a few tunes.
Then Bobby will conduct the second half, opening with Mario Bauza tune Frenzy, a rumba abierta featuring Evan Ringold, age 14, on lead trombone.

"He is a jazz musician," says Bobby about this young man from Hillsborough - the ultimate compliment.

Bobby notes that jazz is about the ability "for the individual to stand out in a democratic fashion, with everybody else...expressing themself on a virtuostic level and telling you stories." Jazz can "draw on any other art form...and still retain its ethos."

Oh yeah - the Gottschalk reference! Bobby mentions 19th-century New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk who grew up near Congo Square, travelled Latin America and absorbed these influences. A master of improvisation on piano, he also incorporated hand drums into his compositions. Bobby gives more on the history of Latin influences in New Orleans. You hear clave in the second line marches.

"We have many more things in common," says Bobby about jazz and the Latin tinge.

In 1939, Machito with his Afro-Cubans was the first to get jazzers into the Latin sound in New York - before Dizzy and Manteca, as Gillespie himself always pointed out.

"I played with Dizzy many times, and Dizzy was a great Lindy dancer and great mambo and cha cha dancer," says Bobby.

People think Latin music is just "the fire and the brimstone," but "we also have the fire and passion on the romantic side," Bobby says. So we hear "Since I Fell for You," a bolero treatment from Bobby's latest album Big Band Urban Folktales.

This chart will be heard tonight, among many Machito tunes from the album Kenya and others, and a Tito Puente mambo. Also one unrecorded tune called "Hour of Darkness" with a message suited to the politics of our time.

Concert tonight (Friday 10/24): Baldwin Auditorium, East Campus of Duke, 8 pm. All students and seniors free, general admission $5.

RADIO ALERT: Bobby Sanabria TODAY on WNCU 90.7 FM

Bobby Sanabria will be interviewed again locally THIS HOUR on WNCU 90.7 FM, Durham's NPR jazz station.

They are playing his tunes at the moment, expecting him in the studio for a live on-air around 10:30 am.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

not a littlebigplanet after all

According to the BBC News, Sony is removing Toumani Diabate's song "Tapha Niang" from their video game LittleBigPlanet because it contains verses from the Koran, so as not to offend Muslims.

I guess they don't mean Diabate; the kora player is himself a Muslim from Mali.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bobby Sanabria LIVE Today on WXDU

Breaking: Bobby Sanabria, Nujackrican drummer extraordinaire, pledges to drop by the studio today for an on-air visit to Azucar y Candela -- exactly what time will be a surprise, but I predict sometime between 5:50 and 6:30 pm! Tune in at 88.7 FM or stream at

Percussion virtuoso Bobby Sanabria brings his savoir faire to Duke University this week for a 3-day residency. Born and raised in the Bronx (where in 2006 a street was named in his honor) of Puerto Rican heritage, Bobby is an internationally respected performer and educator. His third album to be nominated for a Grammy, Big Band Urban Folk Tales, was released in 2007.

Sanabria has an egalitarian eloquence in the musical languages of both Afro-Caribbean folklore and African-American jazz. He understands (and can communicate, both verbally and musically) that these diverse rhythmic traditions of the Americas share a common history and have been, in fact, in conversation with each other for the better part of several centuries. He has added his own bold statements to that conversation through his work as a leader and arranger in both small and large formats, from the quartet to the big band.

To learn more about Bobby's many awards and prominent associations in the world of Latin music, visit Please join me today on Azucar y Candela to hear more from the man himself!

More on Bobby Sanabria Visit...Developing...

Bobby's first rehearsal with the Duke Jazz Ensemble is tonight, I will drop in after the show and report back. I'm curious to see what big band charts he will be rehearsing with them. Will post here about any master classes or other public events.

UPDATE: Bobby will do an informal Q&A with John Brown's Introduction to Jazz class on the Duke East Campus, Richard White Auditorium, from 4:25-5:40 pm today (Wed). Following that, I will be expecting him to drop by my show a little before 6 pm.

Don't forget the main event Friday night (10/24): Bobby's visit culminates in a public concert in Baldwin Auditorium. Tickets are a mere $5, so there is NO EXCUSE to miss this one! Bobby will play with Bradley Simmons, John Brown, the Duke Afro-Cuban and Djembe Ensembles, the Duke Jazz Ensemble, and confirmed guest Pako Santiago (bongos).

Tip: Tonight (Wed 10/22) is also one of John Brown's Jazz at the Mary Lou jam sessions, and if past experience is any indicator, Bobby Sanabria may sit in as a surprise guest. That's if Mr. Aché is not too beat after a long first day of air travel, classes, interviews and rehearsals!

See Onda Carolina calendar for details on all events.

Corrections added: Pako Santiago will play bongo, not timbales. Also, as of press time Chino Casiano is not confirmed to be singing with the group, as previously reported.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Hour

PrimeraJazz, a new Latin jazz project of pianist Eric Hirsh and friends, will play a free "Sabor Latino" happy hour concert at the North Carolina Museum of Art this Friday (10/24).

"Sabor Latino" takes place Friday from 5:30-8:00 pm at the Museum on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. The Latin-themed event is part of the Art in the Evening series, meant to highlight the museum's extended Friday hours. Admission to both the museum and the music event is free.


Spanish wines and Latin American food will be available for purchase, but don't expect PrimeraJazz's music to be watered down for the cocktail circuit.

"It's good to challenge ourselves," says Hirsh, a three-time winner of the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composers Award. Hirsh is rehearsing the quintet to perform his original charts, as well as "salsified" jazz standards, such as his guaguanco arrangement of a Wayne Shorter tune.

As a student, Hirsh rocked Latin rhythms with UNC's Charanga Carolina. Today he plays with hip hop group The Beast and co-leads the salsa band Orquesta GarDel. He is employed by the music software company Zenph Studios, Inc.

In this incarnation of PrimeraJazz, he will be joined by Peter Kimosh, bass, Al Strong, trumpet, Steve Coffman, drums, and Brevan Hampden, congas.

"I'm looking forward to it, and hopefully getting to book this group many more times, so we can really play out instead of have to hold back and play restaurant/wedding jazz."

UPDATE: Eric blogs about the history and resurgence of PrimeraJazz here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tune in: Mondo Mundo, WXDU, Saturday 1-3 pm

Lately I've been the extremely silent partner here at OC, but tomorrow I'll be making noise on WXDU when I host the Mondo Mundo world music show. I'm feeling like cumbia ... maybe some baile funk ... and who knows? I haven't actually got the whole thing planned out at this point...

Anyway, tune in: Saturday Oct. 18, 1-3 pm Eastern; 88.7 FM if you're local, if you're not.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live Salsa For You

The party people at Salsa4U celebrate 8 years at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Durham this Saturday (10/18) with an international/dance costume ball featuring salsa band Sajaso.

Don't arrive fashionably late, since the studio turns into a pumpkin at midnight, and bring exact change if you can ($7). You shall be rewarded with cupcakes, at the potluck dessert table, and of course live music.

Everybody remembers this was a swinging fete last year, so do yourself a favor and come out to wish Salsa4U a happy birthday.

Note added: this is an all ages show.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rumba Thursday Returns to Mosaic

Bev Botsford sends good news: her Afro-Cuban percussion ensemble, Tambor Vivo, will perform again at Mosaic Wine Lounge in Raleigh this Thursday (10/16), with two live sets beginning at 10:30 and 11:30.

Shek your gruv thing

Mosaic is located on Jones St. near the corner of Glenwood, just a few blocks from the Red Room.

Back story: read my review of a Tambor Vivo performance there in August.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

gone, baby, gone

gone, baby, gone

Mike Nifong's guitars fetched just over $5000 today at Cindy Smith Auctions. TV and print newsfolk showed up to capture the moment, and applause greeted the winning bids.

Meanwhile, I got a kick out of this storefront next to the auction house:

a stitch in time saves

Wonder if they can mend reputations.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Even His Republican Mama

Now that's a music video:

Brooklyn-based Cuban singer Jose Conde (with his band Ola Fresca) made this nice get out the vote message for Obama.

I missed his set when he opened for Bio Ritmo at the Pour House in May, but hmmmm, the boy can sing. Smooth. I will not miss it the next time!

Speaking of Bio Ritmo, they will be in Charlotte tomorrow, touring with their new album, Bionico, and Chapel Hill at the Local 506 on November 7, just in time to work out your post-election stress. People get ready.

Back story: Read My review of Bio Ritmo's new album.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Down to the Roots

Rafy Falu, Plena Libre's star requinto player, gave us a group dance lesson last night in the Puerto Rican electric slide.

"Una musica bien bailable," says Rafy.

Rafy smiles

He's talking about plena, or bomba y plena, a danceable Puerto Rican rhythm which exploded in the Dance Tent at Shakori Hills last night.

It was the first of Plena Libre's two shows at the festival. If you can roll, walk or crawl, don't miss the second, tonight at 9 pm at the grassy Meadow Stage.

Flown in direct from Puerto Rico, Plena Libre takes native rhythms, seldom heard outside the island, into uncharted waters. Led by bassist, arranger, composer and mastermind Gary Núñez, Plena Libre approaches hardcore plena the way Los Van Van's Juan Formell engineers musica cubana: With rhythmic authenticity and fearlessly modern invention.

Roli, keyboard, Gary Núñez, bass

My mind was blown when they opened one song with a rumba diana, then busted out into a Puerto Rican bomba. Another started with the coro from Eddie Palmieri's 1965 "Azucar" and morphed into a Cuban songo, a delicious take on Los Van Van's classic "Sandunguera" (aka "Por Encima del Nivel"). The tribute, says Núñez, is on the band's latest album, Plena al Salsero.

"I just like to add colors to the show," says Núñez. "We’re doing salsa, we’re doing rumba, we’re doing plena. You know, it’s like a painting, so people don't get bored."

Fat chance. Last night's audience thundered for an encore at the end of the set.


Salsa dancers: don't fear Plena Libre. Know your Puerto Rican culture. Know it and love it, right down to the roots.

Besides, the band plugs in to salsa at times and combines typical plena hand percussion with instruments familiar from the salsa stage, like timbales and trombones. Their three great vocalists perform in a style that is, in fact, the foundation for salsa, a combination of rapidfire onomatopoeia and Caribbean call and response.

It really helps to see (and hear) plena performed live to get a handle on it.

Cuban rumba will be more familiar to some, but the Afro-Puertorican plena has striking parallels. Rather than congas, the main drum is panderetas or panderos, skin hand drums which look like detached drum heads, or tamborines without the metal chimes. As in rumba, the panderos use a three-voiced rhythm structure.

The largest drum, or tumbadora, dwarfs a man's head like a jumbo-sized pancake. It's the lowest of the three voices. Like the medium-sized seguidora, it plays a repetitive base rhythm. The smallest drum is the star, the high-pitched requinto, which "speaks" like a soloist.

en directo desde PR

Also, some salsa fans may not know it, but plena was a source for North American salsa as it formed in New York, in the hands of, who else: Puerto Ricans. Once you grasp the texture, you will hear plena everywhere, in the classic salsa of Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon, and younger bands like Bio Ritmo.

"Outside of Puerto Rico, you know Eddie Palmieri, you know Ricky Martin. This is the rhythm behind it. This is our music," Núñez says.

As the top touring band, Plena Libre has been spreading plena internationally for 14 years, and the band seems excited about an upcoming concert in Morocco in November.

After Friday's show, it heads to the Richmond Folk Festival (see calendar) and Newark, then back home to play more fiestas patronales. In fact, it just played one the night before, in Yauco, PR. From Yauco to Silk Hope, roots straight out of the ground.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Salsa Plenero

I've already previewed the Latin lineup at Shakori, which runs Thursday (10/9) through Sunday (10/12).

I'm excited to see Puerto Rican Plena Libre at the Dance Tent tonight (and again Friday night, at the Meadow Stage). Their latest CD is a live album recorded in Mexico entitled Plena al Salsero. For a taste of their sound, listen to the sample on this page.

Full info on the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival website.

Weird Karma

In weird news: 3 vintage guitars of disbarred former Durham DA Mike Nifong will be auctioned off this Sunday (10/12), as ordered by an NC bankuptcy court.

The guitars go on the block at 1 pm at Cindy Smith Auctions in Hillsborough.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Brasil 58

Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento & the Jobim Trio play at Duke's Page Auditorium this Thursday (10/9), kicking off a Duke Performances concert series in honor of the 50th birthday of bossa nova.

Here's a mid-tour concert review just out today from the Wall Street Journal critic Jim Fusilli.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cross Currents

More pics by clicking on...

too strong

I saw Al Strong Friday night in John Brown's Jazz Orchestra; here he is soloing with Orquesta GarDel at the Jordan Lake Arts and Music Festival.

JLAM was a nice set-up; the festival has room to grow but it was not a bad turnout for their first event ever. It has a Shakori vibe but the location is far more accessible to where most people in the Triangle live; it was just a straight shot down 751 from Durham for me, north of Apex on Jordan Lake, in a pretty area with horses and farms and country churches. Nice sounds, groovy vendors, hula folk, all the essentials were there for a funky good time. (Ran into HOBEX' Greg Humphreys, checking out the soundscape, on Sunday.) It will be interesting to watch this festival grow.


I went back Sunday to see Eric and Pete from Orquesta GarDel (pictured) in their live hiphop gig, The Beast, with Pierce Freelon. Among other tunes you can hear on YouTube and now, on their EP, they rolled out "Translation," a salsa-hiphop hybrid that brought the dancers back out from Carolina Ballroom of Cary.

Carolina Ballroom had a booth at the festival, and delivered their dance energy en masse at GarDel's set the day before. I did a little mingling and danced with one of their instructors, Robert Wright. That was a friendly meeting of the worlds (in the grassy, muddy terrain, "street rules" definitely applied). Robert and his wife Mitzi are Fred Astaire-schooled instructors who teach all types of ballroom dancing at their Cary studio.

Hear The Beast's recent interview on WUNC's The State of Things on their myspace player. Appearing soon at Shakori Hills (10/10) and Duke Coffeehouse (10/18).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Two Matters Close at Hand

FRIDAY (10/3):
A great deal tonight, if you have a hankering for big band but not the pocketbook to match: The John Brown Jazz Orchestra plays in Baldwin Auditorium at Duke at 8 pm. Tickets are value-priced at $10 general admission or $5 for all students, seniors or Duke ID holders. This is John Brown's professional outfit, to be distinguished from the music department's student Jazz Ensemble (which will perform Oct 24 with guest Bobby Sanabria--more on that later).

SATURDAY-SUNDAY (10/4 - 10/5):
Jordan Lake Arts & Music holds its very FIRST Fall Festival this weekend. Kind of a Shakori-meets-Eno concept, Specs entrepreneur George Fage't started the festival to raise funds and awareness to clean up the Jordan Lake watershed. Day passes are $25, weekend passes $40, (seniors 66+ and kids under 12 free) and all proceeds will benefit local environmental causes.

The rain-or-shine event features 19 bands on 5 stages in a wide array of genres, from zydeco to hiphop to bluegrass, with salsa favorite Orquesta GarDel headlining Saturday at 4:30. Tent and RV camping is available on a first come, first served basis.

Location: Jordan Lake Farm at 1226 Martha's Chapel Road in Apex. See the festival website for full schedule and directions.

Que Orquesta!

It seems obvious in retrospect. But who would have thought, that by pooling the resources of our university, high school, and professional musicians, that we could end up with such a truly grand orquesta, such as David Garcia has fashioned out of Charanga Carolina?

Some scenes from last night's performance at Durham Academy:
(Click on photos to see more)


Garcia in action

Grand orquesta

fluteful improvisation

It's a beautiful experiment. I wish I could have played in a charanga when I was in high school! I wish I could have experienced the joy of Latin music when I was playing violin back then...I knew the intensity of Mahler, the ecstasy of Strauss, even the swing of Gershwin, but I didn't yet know clave, or danzon, or salsa. I envy these students!

An inspiration award goes to Bela Kussin, who had a leading hand in founding the Fiesta Latina at Durham Academy 3 years ago. Her invitation to Garcia and the Charanga to play there quickly led to collaboration, drawing DA student string players into the ensemble.

To see our local Latin musicians on stage with them is also a beautiful thing. Invited guests: Nelson Delgado and Ramon "Chino" Casiano, vocals, Andy Kleindienst (a Charanga alum), trombone, Alberto Carrasquillo, trumpet, Brevan Hampden, congas, Ramon Ortiz, timbales.

As the crowd trailed out to catch the VP debate and stagehands wrapped electrical cords, Brevan and Ramon refused to give up the groove. I took a series of pictures of their impromptu descarga, this is the first:
after hours rumba series...
Watch the rumba heat up at my flickr stream by clicking on the photo.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cuban Culture Thursday (10/2)

Charanga Carolina, UNC's Cuban rhythm and string orchestra, will perform at Durham Academy (Ridge Road Campus) this Thursday (10/2), as part of a school cultural event that is open to the public.

Durham Academy's 3rd annual "Fiesta Latina" celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with music and dance performances, and a dinner of Latin American food. Food will be for sale starting at 5:30 pm. The free cultural program begins at 7:00 pm. Charanga Carolina will play the second hour of the program, from 8:00-9:00 pm.

Charanga Carolina is made up of a combination of UNC-Chapel Hill students and Latin musicians from the local community; some Durham Academy students will also sit in. Musical director David Garcia has won accolades for the project; read more about it in this story I wrote for the Independent Weekly.

Also Thursday: anthropologist, author and documentary filmmaker Ruth Behar speaks at Duke at 7:00 pm. A Sephardic Jew from Cuba, Behar has written a book about the Jewish community there and is a former MacArthur grant winner.

Might I suggest a soundtrack? Benjamin Lapidus' recent Herencia Judia.

See our calendar for more info on both of Thursday's events.

Boricua Jazz Genius

This just in: Puerto Rican jazz saxophonist Miguel Zenón has just won a MacArthur "genius" grant, to the tune of $500,000.

Can't get the embed link to work, but here's the link to the interview on CNN today where Zenón plays a sample.

I will play some of his music today on Azucar y Candela, 5:30-7:30 pm, on WXDU 88.7 FM or listen with iTunes via I was going to feature some "next generation" Latin jazz anyway, inspired by Dafnis Prieto's visit. Zenón and his contemporaries are, to paraphrase the foundation, reinventing a new (Latin) jazz language for the 21st century.