Why are Eric Hirsh and Jose Sanchez smiling?
They are about to take the stage with Orquesta Gardel for the WORLD PREMIERE of a new timba tune written by trombonist Andy Kleindienst. It's entitled, get this: "Welcome to Shakori Hills"!
A song, written FOR the gig? That's like, 111% percent commitment. That's like a renaissance-scale luxury.
VIDEO of this blessed event will be posted as soon as I can get it uploaded!
Team Paso was there (Cuban-style dance school led by Stephanie and Eduardo Winston) to validate this experiment of timba-in-the-wildnerness.
I feel like I was present for something historic Thursday night: not only Gardel's first original, fresh out of the gate (with more soon to follow), but very possibly the first timba song ever written in the Triangle, and almost certainly the first timba song dedicated to Shakori Hills. The sound of timba, with its dynamic piano lines and punchy metales, really suits Gardel. Even though he talked a lot about "salsa gorda," Puerto Rican sonero Nelson Delgado carried the Cuban timba style convincingly right down to his "ahi nama's".
This band was born to play timba. Congratulations Andy! Gardel continues to set the bar higher.
It was in this same spot a year ago that their April performance at Shakori sparked my awe and the Indy cover story that ensued. There's something magical about that Dance Tent, where great evenings with Plena Libre, Bio Ritmo, and Ricardo Lemvo y Makina Loca have gone before.
Jose Conde y Ola Fresca
Jose Conde y Ola Fresca played the Meadow Stage in the shank of the evening.
His touring five-piece (which plays twice more on Friday) features Cuban-born bassist Jorge Bringas; New York Cuban and DUKE GRADUATE ('94) Alex Fernandez Fox on tres and jazz guitar; Venezuelan jazz percussionist Pablo Bencid, as versatile on cajon as drumset; and a surprise: conguero Gabo Tomasini of Bio Ritmo! Jose was born in Chicago, raised in Miami and makes his home in Brooklyn, but he and the Richmond-based Ritmo are good friends. There was a lot of diversity to his set, and Jose charmed with his laid-back sonero style and personal, often whimsical songs in styles from Haitian to joropo. They closed with some son and salsa, and Jose tells me TONIGHT'S SET (Friday night, Dance Tent) will be tailored to the dancer.
"It will be more of the dance stuff, and a couple funky things. We have a wide repertory," says the urban sonero.
"I like to sing in rhythm, and I like to tell stories. I'm trying to take the son spirit into funk," says Jose.
This performance from Thursday night, when they were fighting cold temperatures to keep their instruments in tune, shows their Cuban dance music side. "Puente a Mi Gente," about ending the embargo, features a frisky tres solo by Alex Fernandez Fox.
Jose didn't realize that the festival organizers found him via his nifty Obama video.
"Oh wow," says Jose. "Well we're going to have to do it tomorrow then. That was written for the election, so we'll do it in its original incarnation."
UPDATE added Saturday, 4/18:
Ok, I wondered what he meant. Here is Friday night's performance of the tune "Respondeme," which he adapted for the Obama video. It's a smart-sexy love song (appropriate):
Again, Alex Fernandez Fox takes a searing solo on tres. Alex says his first instrument was piano. At some point, he made his own tres, and then figured out how to play it. (Cubano hasta el hueso.) If I got the story straight, he played guitar in the Duke Jazz Band in the early '90s, under the direction of Paul Jeffries.
Jose Conde's singing voice reminds me a little of Bono, if Bono were an 80-year-old Cuban man living in the mountains. Maybe the Catskills. In any case someone like Alex and his tasty tres would never be far away.
Saturday at Shakori: Get Horny with The Beast
Today at 5 pm: Take a ride in Pierce Freelon's jazz hip hop vehicle The Beast with its new, pimped out horn section. Arranger/pianist Eric Hirsh says to expect new arrangements and more Latin soul flavor. Other Gardelites on hand: Pete Kimosh, Andy Kleindienst and Tim Smith. Vaya!
Shakori Hills Grassroots is a great festival because unless all you listen to is opera and death metal, it has music for everybody. There's so much going on in 4 days I can't survey it all, so see the website for schedule, directions, ticket info, etc.
Some Shakori tips:
Bring a cozy for your beer, and maybe a stash of your own toilet paper (just in case the portapotty village runs out). I love the New York Pizza and the Indian food vendors, and the way the stars in the night sky always look brighter when you are out in the country. If you stay late, bring warm clothes in case the temperature cools down, and if you leave the festival at night, watch for small critters on the roads (I slowed for quite a few deer and bunnies). Drive safely! It's definitely worth the mileage.