Monday, July 26, 2010

Tropic Orchestra @ After Five

Waking the blog from its staycation, and I'll start by cleaning out the attic. Here are a few videos of the recently resurgent Tropic Orchestra at work way back in June. The North Raleigh club, After Five, had a nice layout for salsa, but I don't know if the party has been repeated since. This particular night, DJ Salsa Mike had set up shop. Tropic has started picking up a number of local gigs recently, including the Peruvian Independence Day celebration this past Saturday in Carrboro (more on that to come).

Tropic Orchestra, led by vocalist Ricardo Diquez (better known by the nickname "TNT" in his early days with Samecumba) is still a wiry ball of energy on stage. Coro singer and occasional soloist Jose Rivas, who works in church music, has softer, more romantic vocal qualities that contrast with Diquez' brash street style. If properly mic'ed, it would be nice to see Rivas developed as an alternate color palette in the band's repertoire. The able Andy Kleindienst subbed on bass, always a tasteful listener and contributor to any outing. Forming the seasoned rhythm section at this pick-up gig was Pako Santiago on congas, (pianist) Frank Vila on bongo, and Billy Marrero on timbales. Never asleep at the switch, Ricardo James played trumpet (also of Sajaso), and Joshua Vincent played trombone.

It is worth mentioning that pianist and musical director Andres Leon is the heart at the center of this musical body. A self-taught player from the Venezuelan old school, his strong montunos and tasty rhythmic flourishes keep the salsa pulse pumping, even when the band shows its occasional rough edges. A reminder that even a knife that has nicks in it can cut you.

Here are two videos that both begin with Andres soloing on Willie Colon classics:

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