Saturday, April 25, 2009

Carnavalito Update

A lot of free solar energy didn't seem to hurt Durham's Earth Day Celebration this afternoon, where Carnavalito played in 80-90 degree temperatures. The Triangle's first Latin band demonstrated today that it is still one of the finest.

I really didn't do Alberto Carrasquillo justice in this clip; what you hear is just the denouement of his trumpet solo. He has been on fire lately, and was totally killin' it as I fumbled for my camera (doh). Still, a nice update of what Carnavalito can do, and still does, on a regular basis. I was on time for Serena Wiley's saxophone solo, and a nice little rumba embellishment at the end of the arrangement. This is probably my favorite tune in their current/updated book, which ranges to merengue, son montuno, deep cha fusion, cumbia and Latin jazz. Phil Merritt on piano, Pako Santiago on timbales, Atiba Rorie on congas and leader Ricardo Granillo on bass were all feeling the fire.

Believe it or not, when Carnavalito's first CD "dropped" in 1995, music journalist and historian Max Salazar was here--here, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina--for the release party. (I have proof positive of this on VHS! Courtesy of Salsa Carolina founder Jim Spier.) I am not sure why I was not at this affair in person, perhaps my salsa nightlife career was still in its salad days. In any case Salazar, author of Mambo Kingdom: Latin Music in New York, a 2002 compilation of his columns over the years in Latin Beat magazine, recognized Carnavalito as a carrier of the true spirit of la música.

Let me tell you, musicians don't get rich making a lifelong side career out of playing local/regional gigs. God bless you men and women who do this, year in and year out, for what the music gives to you. It makes our communities richer places and draws in newcomers (like me, back in the day) to the mystical, expansive, universal tradition of Latin music. This music was a survival toolbox for the ancestors who forged it, and it remains so today, a spiritual fountain for anybody who approaches it to drink. That's how I feel about salsa and Afro-Caribbean music. And it's not just because of records from faraway times and places, but because of a lot of local culture bearers who made this tradition accessible to me. I venerate all the musicians who have shared their talent with us over the years and continue to do so, literally, in good times and in bad. It ain't easy. But you know it means a lot.

Correction: Max Salazar attended Carnavalito's first CD-release party, not their second as incorrectly stated earlier. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.

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