Some pics and commentary from Afro Cuban All Stars at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro last night (4/3):
Juan de Marcos, still the empresario. Behind him: former Cubanismo pianist Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera, who lives in Minnesota, and bassist Alberto Pantaleon who lives in Mexico City.
Representing the old school: Evelio Galán is a nephew of Mañuel "Puntillita" Licea, an original member of the Buena Vista Social Club who passed away in 2000. Galán lives in Dublin and heats up the scene there in percussionist Conor Guilfoyle's band, Havana Son. Juan de Marcos (on stage, behind him) called him "the best singer I have ever heard." Gorgeous voice, like butta. He blew me away. (I like how he strategically placed himself in front of my camera too. These are not bootlegged, I had a photo press pass.)
Calixto Oviedo is a beloved timbero in Stockholm. His 90-year-old mother is gravely ill right now, and although he is very worried about her, it didn't affect his performance. We all hope she will hold on to her health until he finishes out the tour next week and can go down to Cuba to see her. This guy has tremendous musicality on the timbales, and a great attitude!
Behind Emilio Suarez's dancing torso, that's bongosero Pepe Espinosa, who played an unusual solo on bell. He lives in [correction!] Stockholm, I believe. His sister Madelin Espinosa is also a percussionist.
Jose Gil Piñero, aka Jose Gilito, definitely plays well to the ladies.
Here he is down in the open orchestra pit with the dancers. After intermission the concert went into party mode. On stage behind him: Emilio Suarez, Juan de Marcos (arms raised), Evelio Galán.
Don't curb your enthusiasm.
Jose Gilito gets a hug. Behind him on stage: Emilio Suarez, and Juan de Marcos' wife/business manager, Gliceria Abreu (in white).
Yes, that's one nice thing about Cuban bands, they bring the party to you. For anyone who had reservations about this new and unfamiliar lineup, they are the cream of Cuba's talent diaspora. This is an elite orchestra and I appreciated the vitality and fresh faces. They shared with us a sense of optimism that this tour is opening doors, and that Barack Obama will put an end to the cold war on cultural exchange. Soon we will be ready to exhale!
I write this as rumors about Los Van Van's U.S. tour THIS SUMMER appear to be substantiated. It's going to happen, people! This July 28, Durham will get run over by El Tren!
Shout out: Local musicians I ran into in the audience at the Afro Cuban All Stars show included Bradley Simmons, Robert Cantrell, Jose Sanchez and Cesar Oviedo. If you were there, give a holler!
I also talked to Edwin Dubois, the owner of the Greensboro club Rumba D'Cache. He said he did cancel the Niche concert (sounded like he didn't sell enough advance tickets?), and was out of town that week opening another club.