Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kitty Mambos and Carnaval Time

New news from La Perla del Sur, our Ponce to the north, aka Richmond, VA: Bio Ritmo rolled out two new repertory items Tuesday night (2/23) at a free show at Balliceaux.

Pianist Marlysse Rose Simmons solos on "Dina's Mambo," a new instrumental she wrote. Reminiscent of other camel-backed Bio Ritmo instrumentals that mix Middle Eastern sonorities and mariachi brass, this tune sounds like something Calexico might do:

Black and white like the piano keys, "Dina" is Marlysse's cat, as I discovered later that when I crashed at her place.

Bio Ritmo @ Balliceaux 2/23/10

(click on photos to see larger)


Adding propulsion to this evening was a new Cortijo cover, "Carnaval." It's extremely rare that Bio Ritmo plays covers, and when they do, they give it their own affectionate twist. This is one of the main things that sets Bio Ritmo apart from your Average Salsa Band.

Giustino Riccio, who normally stands at the timbales, sat down to play the full drum set for these two numbers, which led off the second set.

Bio Ritmo @ Balliceaux 2/23/10



(click on photos to see larger)

tenor trombone

The "new" brass section of JC Kuhl, "Mambo" Bob Miller and Toby Whitaker is really melding together nicely, although Toby says he misses playing with two trombones. "Mambo" Bob's leadership on trumpet is surely decisive in maintaining the clarity and surefootedness of the horns.

I let Toby get all up in my grill with his tenor trombone (or was it vice versa?) as I got in close to take this video of Giustino doing a timbales solo. The horns also take a series of solo blasts:

The lighting in this restaurant is designed for dining, so I apologize for the lack of visual detail in the videos; please refer to photos and use videos as a soundtrack.

People Get Ready: Bio Ritmo plays the Pour House in Raleigh May 6.

Ivan Renta & Charanga Carolina SATURDAY

Carolina Jazz Festival continues...

Charanga Carolina performs tonight, Saturday (2/27) at Memorial with the UNC Jazz Band, with featured artists Jason Marsalis and Ivan Renta. For the first time, Charanga and the Jazz Band will perform together on a few arrangements: a classic merengue by Papa Molina arranged for big band and charanga, "La Justicia," and Tito Puente's "El Cayuco." I can't find specific ticket price info on this concert, but assume some admission will be charged at the door at Memorial.

Meanwhile, masterclass sessions this afternoon, Saturday (2/27) in the Kenan Music Building rehearsal hall are FREE and open to the public:

1:00pm-2:15pm Masterclass Sessions
Jason Marsalis, drums and vibes
Ivan Renta, saxophone and jazz improvisation

2:30-4:00pm Workshop on Latin Jazz
With Charanga Carolina, David Garcia, Director
With UNC Jazz Band, Jim Ketch, director
With guests: Ivan Renta, tenor sax; Jason Marsalis, drums

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ineditas del Ritmo

A couple more "extra dark" videos (hey, think of them like that spicy, bittersweet chocolate with hot peppers and 90% cacao) that I made of Bio Ritmo's new, as yet unreleased songs in January.

These performances were recorded in the back room at Balliceaux, 203. N. Lombardy Street in downtown Richmond, where track lighting would do wonders for ham videographers.

Newbies in the repertoire "Majadero" and "La Verdad" have hallmarks of the classic Bio Ritmo sound, as I listen and get to know them. You only get to do this once: hear a Bio Ritmo song for the first time that will mature in your ears and evolve in performance.

FYI: This no-cover, backroom salsa night ("omg, what? you are telling me they hear Bio Ritmo FREE in Richmond once a month?" Sí.) happens again this Tuesday (2/23), 10 pm - 1 am. Restless, my booties just may hit the road.


Richmond Road Trip: 2 more videos from the same night

Upcoming Shows:

Bio Ritmo plays Charlottesville, VA on 2/26
Bio Ritmo
performs at the Smithsonian on 2/27
Bio Ritmo @ SOB's New York City, Live DVD Filming, Broadcast and Concert on 3/19
FINALLY: Bio Ritmo @ Pour House in Raleigh, May 6!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Charanga DJ

A rapt audience turned out for DJ Radar's performance with Charanga Carolina at Gerrard Hall last night, featuring compositions of pianist Raúl Yañez. There is a lot more to turntabling than scratching and sampling old records, and I wish I had spent more time getting to know Radar's methods. He presses his own vinyl, so for instance, he put vocals by Raúl's brother on an album to sample during "Sigue Tus Sueños," a 4/4 cha groover I would have sworn was a vintage '70s loop. Charanga pianist Alex Williams took over the bench for that number; this freshman has both percussion and keyboard training, so he can really rock a montuno.

I got bees' knees listening to "Centipede," a tune with a little more of a spotlight on DJ Radar. Andrew Van Tassel (sax), Ryan Raven (trumpet), and Raúl Yañez (piano) also solo:

Raúl tipped me off afterwards that the title is actually a reference to the old Atari video game--a great example of the wit, cultural hipness and musicality of Yañez' turntable compositions:

Back in Phoenix, Raúl is known at jazz club Bobby C's for playing B3 Hammond organ in his small Latin combo with DJ Radar. The two have developed tons of material incorporating turntables over more than 10 years of playing together, so what we heard was the tip of an iceberg.

Dancing took off in part two of this program, when Charanga did four tunes with various guests sitting in. Bradley Simmons played congas on one, and DJ Radar added turntable percussion to the encore, Ruben Blades' "Pedro Pablo." They moved the brass up to the front of the orchestra for this set, and it was distinctly pleasurable to pound the dancefloor to their Los Van Van cover with the trombones in my ear.

latin turntable

Among the Yañez originals, we also heard the world premiere of "Circulo," a restlessly building instrumental that mingles salsa, cumbia and 6/8 feeling, a work commissioned for Charanga Carolina:

You heard it here first.

Props to Festival on the Hill organizer Mark Katz, who put this special collaboration in motion and who emcee'ed all the Charanga events. A good number of dancers turned out, so it was nice to see this event happen as a real intermingling of cultures.

Dancers, what did you think?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chicano Charanga @ UNC FRIDAY

Latin pianist Raúl Yañez and turntablist DJ Radar played the same club in Phoenix, but on different nights. They finally met when DJ Radar (aka Jason Bellmont) wanted a jazz musician to check out his scratch notation. Before long, the two were jamming after hours, collaborating, and exploring the integration of turntables into a live, Latin band.

In 2001, Raúl wrote Concerto for Turntable, which world-premiered in Carnegie Hall in 2005 (with sponsorship by Red Bull).

Scratch forward to 2010, and UNC Music Department's Festival on the Hill, an annual symposium and letting-down-of-the-hair on a creative theme. This year's topic: The Art and Culture of the DJ.

chicano charanga
Raúl Yañez & DJ Radar rehearse with Charanga Carolina

Here's what you need to know: Raúl Yañez and DJ Radar are here FRIDAY (2/19), and they are inviting you to their dance party with Charanga Carolina 8-10 pm, in UNC's Gerrard Hall (on the left side of Memorial Hall). There's a lovely wood floor, dancing is encouraged, and it's FREE and OPEN to the public.

Raúl wrote "Circulo," a new piece especially for the Charanga Carolina and DJ Radar. The first set will feature Raúl's original material and Cuban classics such as "Cumbanchero," integrating turntables + charanga; a second set will feature DJ Radar sitting in with Charanga's regular material, including their Los Van Van anthem "Esto Te Pone La Cabeza Mala."

I know you are all wondering what to expect; I've been to the open rehearsal, and I can tell you, this is fresh, limber, groove-based dance music, and the turntables are integrated to a surprising degree, embedded as it were, right into the Latin rhythm section. Here is a piece of video from the Q&A last night, where Raúl and Radar discuss what they are trying to do:

I don't want to spoil all the surprises, but here is a brief sample of DJ Radar's flashier side, soloing with the Charanga during the open rehearsal:


Thursday, February 11, 2010

DP Update on Tonight's Plena Events

With a slight revision, ALL of Duke Performances events are ON for this evening, Thursday (2/11).

Miguel Zénon's Esta Plena Septet is driving down from NYC today via automobile, due to the heavy snow. While they will not arrive for the 6 pm talk, they WILL PERFORM as scheduled at 8 pm in Reynolds Auditorium, in Duke's Bryan Center.

The pre-concert talk WILL ALSO TAKE PLACE with Ned Sublette, as scheduled at 6 pm, in the Bryan Center Meeting Room A.

Full press release from Duke Performances Marketing Director Ken Rumble:

Wanted to let you know about a pre-performance talk that Duke Performances is hosting with author and ethno-musicologist Ned Sublette on the history of plena music in Puerto Rico tonight at 6 pm in Meeting Room A on the top level of the Bryan Center on Duke's West Campus.

Due to severe winter weather in New York City, Miguel Zenon and Hector "Tito" Matos will be unable to join Mr. Sublette for the conversation -- however, tonight's concert will proceed as scheduled.

Ned Sublette is a musician, writer, and producer. He is the author of Cuba and Its' Music and The World That Made New Orleans.

I had the pleasure of seeing Ned Sublette at the Regulator in Durham last night. He performed from his not-yet-recorded album and read from his newly published memoir about New Orleans.

Ned Sublette @ The Regulator, 2/10/10
Vaquero Rumbero: Ned Sublette

For a foretaste of what Ned might cover tonight, about the history of plena, see the 2/10 issue of The Independent on newstands. I quoted him in my lead culture feature:

"Street Spirit: Jazz finally taps plena, one of Puerto Rico's overlooked rhythms"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

PowWow @ Durham SSM


Went to my first North Carolina powwow, at the School of Science & Math Saturday (2/6). Lumbee and Tuscarora from the Lumberton/Pembroke area were in attendance, not sure what other peoples/areas represented. This is the 19th annual PowWow there, organized by retired instructor Joe Liles, who also performed with the drum group Southern Sun, and did fantastic drawings for the program and posters.

This video is from the Grand Entry, around 1 pm:

I am really loving these jingle dresses. The jingles were originally made from recycled snuff can lids. Very creative reuse!


jingle girl

More photos to come...

Friday, February 5, 2010

abre kuta güiri mambo...plena...jazz

Ned Sublette will make a stop on his multimedia publicity tour in Durham next week. Wednesday (2/10) at 7 pm at the Regulator, he will read from his new book, The Year Before the Flood: A New Orleans Story and perform songs from his new album, Kiss Me Down South. Ned is also the founder of the Institute for Postmambo Studies. (And yes, he will be selling T-shirts.)

Ned Sublette may be my favorite living author and public intellectual. His knowledge of Afro-Atlantic culture is so deep and so connected, and the way he expresses it so fluid and untroubled. Rare. His books on the musics of Cuba and New Orleans, and the historical contexts that shaped them, are both rich, great reads.

The confluence of his visit next week with Miguel Zenón's Esta Plena Septet will result in another meeting of the minds. Ned will give a FREE pre-concert talk, with Miguel and his collaborator Hector "Tito" Matos, on Thursday (2/11) at 6 pm.

It will be old home week for Ned, who produced Tito's 1998 album on Qbadisc with Viento De Agua. That band's latest, a fusion self-release called Fruta Madura, demonstrates how gloriously open and expansive the plena matrix can be.

Tito Matos is a leading practioner of plena, and MacArthur "genius" grant fellow Miguel Zenón built his latest album around him. The double Grammy-nominated Esta Plena is a milestone encounter between plena, a native rhythm of Puerto Rican folklore, and jazz. Zenón's saxophone drips lyricism, and he's joined by a well-attuned quartet that includes Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, Austrian bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole, who subtly matches the patterns of pandereta and güiro. Tito brings vocals and hand-drumming on board the septet, with the aid of Obanilú Allende and Los Pleneros de la 21 founder Juan Gutierrez.

Lucky us.

Read: Principles of Postmamboism
Book Review: The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans
Duke Performances: Miguel Zenón Concert Info