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.
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?