Sunday, August 29, 2010

NC Salsa Festival, Part 2

Night 2...I was seated in the back row, literally making for a crap shoot, yet I made out with a few souvenir photos that will give you an idea of how the second night of dance performances went.

NC Salsa Fest - day 2

Quick review of the dance showcase:

1) Serena Cuevas
From: San Diego, Deseo Dance Company (director)
Danced to: Rodrigo & Gabriela, "Diablo Rojo"

NC Salsa Fest, Day 2

Commments: Truly a beautiful dancer, with a real body she knows how to move. I liked Cuevas' costume for the solo piece, as well as her choice of music--the very hip, young guitar duo Rodrigo and Gabriela. I'm psyched to see a woman leading her own company and dancing her way into the zeitgeist--Cuevas appears in that Gatorade commercial, "Is It In You?"

2) Jose Maldonado, Lucy Lu + one pair [TBA]
From: Atlanta, Paso Fino Dance Company
Danced to: TBA [modern salsa, with some fast pumping saxes]

NC Salsa Fest, Day 2

Comments: I'm stealing from MC Eric Baez when I say, simply, this was a high energy routine with nice tricks. Definitely true; Lu and Maldonaldo seemed to have switched partners for the double act, with another couple whose names are TBA.

3) Natalia Weedy and Pedro Paz
From: Raleigh, Cobo Brothers Dance Company
Danced to: Tito Puente & La Lupe, "Oriente"

NC Salsa Fest, Day 2

Comments: Solo debut for this bold, sexy pair, with big lifts and dynamic chemistry. Great musical choice with this La Lupe/Tito Puente pairing; this version of the Cuban guajira starts slow and morphs into an uptempo coro, perfect for showcasing different moods/moves.

4) Victor & Burju Perez

From: Boston, Hacha y Machete Dance Company
Danced to: Bobby Rodriguez, "After Midnight"

NC Salsa Fest - day 2

Comments: Very Broadway, with wild costumes and pumped attitude. This couple favors fast Latin jazz instrumentals, which makes sense to me as a musical choice for what they do.

5) Tito y Tamara
From: Puerto Rico
Danced to: Ortos Gutierrez y De Menor A Mayor, featuring Gilberto Santa Rosa, "Swing Boricua"

NC Salsa Fest - day 2

Comments: Music written exclusively for them by Tito's musician father; Gilberto Santa Rosa recorded the featured vocal as a favor on this non-commercially released recording. I mean, dayamn! The tune also features a break with a couple of coros from Bobby Valentin's "Soy Boricua," so it don't get any more boricua than that. High professionalism and style, mil-kilowatt smiles, and cool dance breaks where they showed off their individual shines.

6) Erell Niane and Mike Very
From: Nice, France, U-Tribe Dance Company
Danced to: Alicia Keyes intro, and Celia Cruz & Ray Barretto, "Bambarakatunga"

NC Salsa Fest - day 2

I got a bit of a Zap Mama vibe from the opening, with an Alicia Keyes sample and costumes kinda like tribal lingerie. Very has a belly button piercing--unusual for a man? But definitely something he carries off. Unpretentious dancers with a lot of reach, Very told me this couple dances ALL regional styles of US salsa (mambo, L.A., etc.), plus Cuban rumba, hip hop, and African dance vocabularies like soukous and dombolo. "I dance the way I feel it, I don't think about it, it just comes out that way," says Very about integrating elements.

7) Milton Cobo + Erin Leger, James Cobo + Isabel Freiberger
From: Raleigh, Cobo Brothers Dance Company
Danced to: [Artist TBA] "Dulcerito"

NC Salsa Fest - day 2
Erin Leger and Milton Cobo

Comments: Festival hosts the Cobo Brothers flaunted their distinctive mambo style in double pair format. Cocky and playful, always a big "wow" factor, even with the home court advantage.

8) Oliver Pineda

From: Sydney, Australia
Danced to: Michel Camilo, "Caribe"

Comments: A Chilean born in Australia, Pineda's muscle control is prodigious. Similar influences as Friday's solo performance.

NC Salsa Fest - day 2

"It's time to show what the rest of the world can do," said Milton Cobo as he brought Pineda and U-Tribe on stage at the end of the show.

COMING SOON: Reportage of the "Battle of the Bands," as Tropic Orchestra and Orquesta Gardel faced off on Friday and Saturday.

Erell and Burju
Old friends: Erell Niande of U-Tribe and Burju Perez of Hacha y Machete

Isabel's cha cha cha
Doesn't this look like an Impressionist painting?

Isabel's cha cha cha
Isabel Freiberger at the afterparty with Tropic Orchestra.

Rick and Frank
Clockwise from top left: William Villalba, Ricardo James, Frank Vila and Rick Radian

Tropic's new Venezuelan rhythm section: Andres Leon and Rey Riera


See Friday night: NC Salsa Festival, Part 1

Saturday, August 28, 2010

NC Salsa Festival, Part 1

A showcase of international dance performances at the NC Salsa Festival last night exceeded my expectations for their diversity, from the classic Nuyorican mambo and competition ballroom moves, to dancers who tapped directly in to the African and Brazilian roots.

party pics, Friday 8/27 - NC Salsa Festival

It was followed by dance party starring Orquesta GarDel in Part One of the "Battle of the Salsa Bands" (Tropic Orchestra will take the stage tonight.) GarDel gave a heavy performance that earned respect from the dance artists, some of whom joined them onstage for the encore. Giorgio Restaurant in Cary was an elegant setting for the dance party; I enjoyed an unusual champagne cocktail at the bar. To make room for the performer showcase, a second stage was set up outside in a tent, which was brilliant because it allowed the band to set up inside at the same time.

Oliver Pineda, Mike Very & Orquesta Gardel
Oliver Pineda and Mike Very with sonero Jaime Roman

Here's a quick review of the dance showcase; I'm told these same dancers will perform whole different routines to different music tonight.

1) Tito & Tamara
From: Puerto Rico
Danced to: Jose Lugo Orchestra, "Mambo Valentin"

Tito & Tamara

Tito & Tamara

Comments: Pure Puerto Rico. Classic beautiful moves and poses from a top pro team. They danced in "El Cantante" and other movies, and with top industry salsa stars like Gilberto Santa Rosa.

2) Isabel Freiberger
From: Cobo Brothers Dance Company (local)
Danced to: Charlie Palmieri, "Either You Have It Or You Don't," and Michael Buble, "Feeling Good"

Isabel Freyberger

Isabel Freyberger
Comments: Freiberger's music titles say it all about her performance: She definitely "has it," a natural solo performer with tremendous charisma, a unique look (kind of an Ann Margret fire), acrobatic style, and not a hint of nerves. Like poised dynamite.

3) Cobo Student Dance Team
From: Cobo Brothers Dance Company (local)
Danced to: Ray Barretto, "Adelante Siempre Voy"

Cobo Student Team
Adam Phillips and Alexis Silver

Cobo Student Team
Yin Song and Amber Cadwell

Comments: Classic Cobo style, sassy torso moves and lots of airborne lifts. Good synchronicity by two well-matched pairs, even when the sound dropped out, and they completed their choreography without music. It was the last performance of Alexis Silver and Milton Cobo delivered a tribute.

4) Lucy Lu and Jose Maldonado
From: Atlanta, Paso Fino Dance Company
Danced to: "La Guarachera" by Celia Cruz & Tito Puente

Getting there is half the fun

Getting there is half the fun

Comments: Put me in mind of Junior & Emily's performance at the festival last year, favoring multiple spins and constant motion over held elements and airborne moves. "That's coming tomorrow!" Maldonado told me after the show, saying this was their competition routine emphasizing ballroom elements.

5) Melanie Riveira & Serena Cuevas
From: San Diego, Deseo Dance Company
Danced to: A samba batucada (Brazilian drum music), and Rebeca Mauleon, "Serenata Ritmica"

Deseo dance company
Melanie Riveira

Deseo dance company
Serena Cuevas

Comments: The samba surprise: unexpected fusion of samba and capoeira with salsa and mambo. Nice to see a pair of female dancers with a unique style, introducing carnavalesque Brazilian sex and power to the "same old" salsa equation.

6) Mike Very & Erell Niane
From: Nice, France. Urban Tribe aka U-Tribe Dance Company
Danced to: Los Van Van, "Somos Cubanos"


NC Salsa Fest dancers

Comments: Knock me over with a feather: Timba, at a mambo conference! To be more precise, a vital, fresh Afro fusion reflecting many influences from Cuban rumba, to Very's native Kenya and Niane's Senegalese roots. This was a standout with me and others I informally polled: eye-opening, gorgeously physical, and highlighting deep cultural connections.

7) Oliver Pineda
From: Sydney, Australia
Danced to:A bulerias by Joachin Cortez.

NC Salsa Fest dancers

NC Salsa Fest dancers

Comments: Flamenco, modern, and rumba inform the very physical, smooth solo routine of a 5-time World Salsa Champion. Kind of classically blended, although Pineda's costume suggests tribal assocations. Also a musician, Pineda sat in for GarDel's encore and played a killer timbales solo (see above video).

8) Victor & Burju Perez
From: Boston, Hacha y Machete Dance Company
Danced to: Alfredo De La Fe, "Hacha y Machete"

NC Salsa Fest dancers

NC Salsa Fest dancers

Comments: Introduced by MC Eric Baez as a "classic," this married pair represents the New York mambo style with all its formality and elegance. Cool music choice, an instrumental cover of their signature tune ("Hacha y Machete," a Hector Lavoe original) by violinist Alfredo De La Fe. It doesn't get more classic salsa than that. Burju's got her own line of dance shoes.

More Orquesta GarDel videos to follow soon.

Tropic Orchestra has been woodshedding all week, with some new personnel; judging by last night, they better bring their A-game! "Battle of the Salsa Bands, Part Two" tonight, starts at 11 pm (9:30 dance showcase).

party pics, Friday 8/27 - NC Salsa Festival
Erell Niane (right) relaxing at the afterparty with Orquesta GarDel

GarDel @ NC Salsa Festival

GarDel @ NC Salsa Festival

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Orquesta GarDel @ NCSU TONIGHT

GarDel in action

Free Live Salsa. Rumba en el Patio. Orquesta GarDel @ NCSU campus in Raleigh Saturday (8/21) from 8-10 pm outside on the Talley Student Center Plaza (rain location: inside Talley Student Center in the Stewart Theatre).

This is a free concert for students and the general public. Organizer Mark Tulbert confirmed to me yesterday that the concert is on, rain or shine, and GarDel confirms their participation.

Event website: ARTS NC STATE Center Stage

Talley Student Center: 2610 Cates Avenue, Raleigh NC 27607
NCSU Campus Map & Directions to Free Parking


...from GarDel's last performance at the Durham Latino Festival. That show featured guest pianist Stephen Anderson, who kicks out a sparkling solo on this Sonora Ponceña classic while sitting barefoot at the keyboard in the summer heat. Check out that wide stance! Vaya Steve...

GarDel @ Shakori
Orquesta GarDel performing this past April at Shakori Hills.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Firehouse Rhythm Kings Reunion

Abigail Browning and Jason Sager @ Firehouse Rhythm Kings
Firehouse Rhythm Kings @ The Cave

The Triangle loves its vintage dance culture. Swing band the Firehouse Rhythm Kings reunited Tuesday at The Cave with their vocalist and fiddle player Joe Troop, back in town for a visit after relocating to Buenos Aires last year.

Troop's promiscuous fiddle references Wagner, Vivaldi and Led Zeppelin as he sings his way through repertoire by Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, FRK originals and old time swing music inflected with calypso, gypsy, cowboy, soul and Spanish music. Fellow firemen on duty are Charles Cleaver piano, Chris Roszell banjo, Seth Barden bass, and Daniel Yount drums.

Here they are doing a Charlie Parker tune with Spanish lyrics by Argentinean guitarist Oscar Aleman:

One more chance to see The Firehouse Rhythm Kings TONIGHT, Thursday (8/19) before Troop heads back to Argentina:

RDU Rent Party, a pay-what-you-can swing dance with live music, happens monthly at Triangle Dance Studios (back building) at 2603 Miami Blvd in Durham. This month: Free East Coast Swing lesson at 7 pm, live dance music by The Firehouse Rhythm Kings from 8:00 - 11:00 pm.

Abigail Browning and Jason Sager @ Firehouse Rhythm Kings
Swing instructors Jason Sager & Abigail Browning


RDU Rent Party website

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deep Blues in Durham

Aaron Mills Project
Aaron Mills Project @ Broad Street Cafe

Came across this by chance at Broad Street Cafe: former Cameo bassist Aaron Mills with his Project, playing the Cafe's no-cover Sunday Night Jazz Series. Here's a snippet of their nice jam on a Bill Withers classic:

It is amazing how the original, just a two-minute blues, has proven so memorable and so durable:

Thanks, Bill.

Aaron Mills Project's next date at Broad Street Cafe is Sunday, Sept. 5.

Aaron Mills Project
Pianist Victor Moore


Events at Broad Street Cafe

Aaron Mills Project

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Shaded in the woods at Bond Park, the Sertoma Amphitheatre is the setting once again for the 6th annual Ritmo Latino Festival, FREE all afternoon today (Sunday, 8/15), from noon to 6:30 pm.

Festival Schedule and more info at Ritmo Latino 2010 website, here.

Headliner Triangle Salsa All Stars takes the stage at 5:00 pm.

According to Ricardo Granillo, this supergroup of local musicians will include Guillo Carias, Ricardo James, Andres Leon, Ramon Ortiz, Cesar Oviedo, Alberto Carrasquillo, Hugh Robertson, Billy Marrero, Pako Santiago, Jaime Roman, Ricardo Diquez and other guests.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guillo Carias Trio @ Sullivan's

Guillo Carias @ Sullivan's

Guillo Carias @ Sullivan's

Caught up with Guillo Carias last Wednesday at his weekly trio gig, 7-11 pm at the Sullivan's on Glenwood Ave in Raleigh. Drummer Ramon Ortiz' brother Eduardo was sitting in, a musician whose home base is in Worcester, Mass. With Eduardo on bass, Andy Kleindienst shifted to his primary instrument, trombone. Nelson Delgado also sat in on congas and made vocal contributions on some boleros and sones.

Guillo Carias @ Sullivan's

This video captures a lively moment in the last set, with the Cuban dance tune "El Cuarto de Tula." While Andy Kleindienst is barely visible in the low light conditions, his trombone gleams close to the camera as he delivers a solo:

Guillo Carias @ Sullivan's
Ortiz brothers Eduardo and Ramon with Andy Kleindienst

Guillo Carias @ Sullivan's

Guillo Carias @ Sullivan's

Guillo has a new website, and some gigs coming up; he'll be performing with the Triangle Salsa All Stars at the Festival Ritmo Latino in Cary this weekend. More TBA soon...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pocket Full of Funk: The Engagement

Blu & Brevan
Blu Thompson and Brevan Hampden jamming @ The Republic

All-around percussionist Brevan Hampden and his fiancee Amithyst Castro celebrated their engagement last Friday night with a great, funky jam session at The Republic in downtown Durham. Members of Brevan's musical family held down the house band--mom Brenda on piano, and dad Ivan on drumset--along with a slew of friends and musical guests dropping in.

Hampden Jam @ The Republic
Trumpeter Lynn Grissett

Hampden Jam @ The Republic

Jazz pianist Joey Calderazzo (with whom Brevan plays regularly) was jamming up a storm when I came in. Other musical guests included William Darity on guitar, Pete Kimosh on both electric and double bass, Mark Wells on vocals/piano, and Eric Hirsh on piano. A mighty horn choir waited in the wings, including Al Strong, Lynn Grissett, James "Saxsmo" Gates, Blu Thompson, Eric Dawson, Brian Horton and others.

Brian Horton shakes a tambourine between sax solos

William Darity & Mark Wells
William Darity sits in on guitar, with Mark Wells, piano


Short form: Solos by Blu Thompson (soprano sax), Mark Wells (piano & vocal).

Long form: Solos by William Darity (guitar), Brian Horton (sax), Brenda Hampden (piano), Eric Dawson (sax).