Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bamboleo Shows Who's Boss

Lazaro Valdes y su Bamboleo @ Star Lounge

Late Sunday night, I made my way to the DC suburbs in Virginia to see Bamboleo, one of Cuba's legendary timba bands. Back in the late 90s, Bamboleo made waves with their urban sound and look. Recalling the sleek sophistication of a late 70s funk band like Chic, Bamboleo broke the norm by featuring a powerful pair of female lead singers, Vannia Borges and Haila Monpie. The band's personnel has morphed since then (like most timba bands), as first-gen fans are eager to point out, but maestro Lazaro Valdes maintains the Bamboleo trademark with current leading lady Tania Pantoja. Her young, "Generation Y" Cuban fans were ready and waiting for her at Annandale's Star Lounge when I arrived, just after La Tremenda had finished their opening set.


Have you ever noticed that timba bands don't stop to talk to the audience between songs, they talk to the audience during the songs, which are usually extended dance versions with added coros and transitions? They hit the stage like water on greasefire, and the show never lets up. Here's Tania giving the welcoming shout out during the band's opening number:

Having seen Pupy y Los Que Son Son and Manolito y Su Trabuco earlier this year, I have a widening database of live Cuban timba bands to compare this to. They all use a little different orchestration, and a little different take on the timba mix of styles of influences. Each band has a "mastermind" or main songwriter/director, with the rest made up of some combination of long-time associates and younger, renewable parts (especially singers). Renewable is not to say interchangeable; a lot rides on the "who's who" of who is singing or playing with which band, when, and often it lends each era in a band's recording and performance history its own classic character, even when the same material is repeated. The repertoire is the soul of the band, evergreens mingling with new innovations as the dance bands constantly battle each other for the Cuban public's attention.

In the case of Bamboleo--like Pupy and Manolito--the "mastermind" is the pianist/keyboardist, Lazaro Valdes. Timba bands also tend to have BOTH a piano and synth keyboard (or "teclado") player, so the setup for Bamboleo was interesting: One guy alone played both piano and traditional synth keyboards, which were mounted together on one stand, while Lazaro in the frontline wielded a Roland AX-Synth.



Here's what I could piece together of the personnel list: Maykel Rojas (trumpet), Tony Garcia Gonzales & Alejandro (sax), Karel Samada Fernandez (pianista/tecladista), Lazaro Valdes (keyboards/leader), Tania Pantoja and Ronnys Lopes Salas (vocalists), Juan Aguilera Noris (drumset), Alexander Sanchez (timbales), Roberto ("tumbadora" aka congas), Cachito (a dedicated guiro player). The bass player switched out instruments, carrying his rock bass piggyback at times when opting for the electric upright.




I talked to dancing timbalero Alexander Sanchez, who says the Dolce & Gabbana symbol just happens to be popular right now (some of Manolito's younger guys were also sporting it). It's his first time touring in the States, since he joined Bamboleo only about 5 or 6 years ago. Before that, he spent 4 years with Pachito Alonso y sus kini-kini.

The set was about an hour and a half, and I recognized a lot of songs from their most recent albums, 2010's Quien Manda? (also released as Vengo A Lo Cubano) and 2006's Mi Verdad.

Here is Tania singing "Los Guapos" from the new album:

Bamboleo singer Ronny

The "audience participation" number, a chestnut of any live timba show, was the rumba-based "Atrevimiento" from the album Mi Verdad. There are some great dancers here, especially the guy in all-white dancing rumba:

My favorite, most unpredicted moment of the night was this funky mambo version of "Tequila" as a mashup with The Beatles' "Come Together." Is this recorded somewhere? Sometimes these guys sound strikingly like an American funk, rap or R&B band, but with all the energetic rhythmic underpinnings of timba. Pretty infectious:

This crowd was smaller than those for Manolito and Pupy in DC, probably owing a lot to the fact that it was a Sunday night. All these shows happened in different venues with different promoters, so it's hard to know the effects of such variables on turnout. It's also hard to figure out if we are making headway or not, as far as developing a timba tour network that may, one day, stretch into the Southeast?

Having played a great show, with one power ballad (not something you hear in Pupy's shows or albums, by contrast), the encore set was modest, taking it out with the title track from Bamboleo's 1999 heydey recording, Ya No Hace Falta:

SOON TO COME...my post-show interview with Lazaro Valdes

Lazaro Valdes


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Don't Go Changing: Cristian Cañaveral @ Buku

70s soft rock got Cristian Cañaveral's set off to a nostalgic start last night at Buku. Singing Spanish lyrics to Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are," without a hint of irony, set the mood for an evening of lovely, digestible, R&B-infused Latin pop.

The built-out combo, with piano, electric guitar, Latin percussion and drumset, gives welcome dimension to Cristian's acoustic-guitar-driven originals.

It was mayhem on the dance floor until 2 am, following the live set, with DJ Salsa Mike spinning the traditional tropical mix. Mike's next party, Salsa Brava, will be next Saturday (10/2) at Carmen's.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

BAMBOLEO: Cuban Band in Virginia SUNDAY

Publicity has been spotty for Cuban timba band Bamboleo's U.S. tour, or tour-let, going on now. They played Miami on the 17th, New York yesterday, and will be in Paterson, New Jersey tonight.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast, Bamboleo will be in Metro DC for two appearances on Sunday (9/26): at the Latino Festival in Mt. Pleasant for a three-song teaser at 3 pm, and the Star Lounge in Annandale, VA, Sunday night. Star Lounge opener is DC salsa band La Tremenda, featuring Peruvian vocalist Julito Vilchez. DC's timbera mayor, DJ Reyna La Farandulera, will be spinning.


Tickets $30, VIP $40. Available at www.ticketlatino.com
Email: catozega@aol.com
Phone: 703) 953-1743, (703) 861-1757


Bamboleo in Virginia, Facebook event page
Bamboleo in New Jersey, Facebook event page

Live Music & Salsa Party @ Buku Tonight

Cristian Cañaveral @ Mosaic
Soy tu cantante: Cristian Cañaveral @ Mosaic

Singer/songwriter Cristian Cañaveral has burst onto the Triangle scene lately, making a lot of new fans at the Ritmo Latino Festival in August. Since then he's been a popular draw at small, live music venues such as Mosaic Wine Lounge, where his next gig will be this Monday (9/27) 9-11 pm; no cover.

Below, from his last concert there, Cristian sings an original on the patio (low light, sound only):

With a decidedly romantic timbre to his voice, and Latin pop sensibilities drawing on the bolero tradition, the 22-year-old appears to have a lot of commercial potential.

Performing sometimes as a solo or trio act, he also works with a backing band that rocks more formidably, featuring Venezuelan core musicians from the local scene: pianist Andres Leon, percussionist Josue Bracho Quintero, and others.

Check out the Cristian Cañaveral Live Band TONIGHT, Saturday (9/25) at the Buku Loco party in Raleigh. Live music from 10 to 11:30 pm, followed by dance party with DJ Salsa Mike.


Facebook event page: Buku Loco TONIGHT

Facebook event page: Mosaic Live MONDAY

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Drums of Haiti: Resurrection Dance Theater TODAY @ 4 pm

Haiti dance workshop

"The drum in Haiti means freedom, power, celebration. The sound of drums means, I'm calling for you."

--Stanley "Lelé" Cayo
Resurrection Dance Theater of Haiti

Haiti dance workshop

"Through dance, we tell our story--where we come from, how we feel. Dance is the communication, and the connection too."


Resurrection Dance Theater of Haiti, TODAY Sunday (9/19), 4 pm, Reynolds Theater, Duke University in the Bryan Center. $10 admission benefits Hearts with Haiti.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

OPA! Zephyros blows in to Raleigh Greekfest

Zephyros @ Raleigh Greekfest 2010
Baltimore band Zephyros @ Greek Festival in Raleigh

Raleigh's Greek Festival got off to a good start last night with a Friday dinner rush; around 5 pm, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church's website slowed as people printed out their coupon for complimentary admission.

Sit down dinners, gyros and calamari, a nice selection of Greek wines and beer, coffee, and baklava sundaes were among the homemade treats on offer at the Exposition Center at the NC State Fairgrounds. At the vendors' market, you can purchase religious icons, paintings of Greek landscapes, and belly dance coin belts at an affordable price of $10.

Zephyros @ Greekfest 2010
Stavros Blicas and Dave Drosinos

Live band Zephyros is back again from Baltimore, having played Fayetteville's Greek Festival last weekend, and the guys welcomed me back as their "official" videographer (see my coverage of last year's Greek Festival).

I'm not an expert on Greek music, but I can tell that it requires a high level of musicianship, especially on instruments I don't get to hear too often, such as clarinet and bouzouki. I also love the dance rhythms and the unstoppable medleys. Here's a taste of Friday night's music and dancing:

Zephyros will be playing throughout the festival, which ends Sunday (9/18) at 8 pm; Saturday's live music schedule is 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, then again from 5 to 10 pm.


Raleigh Greek Festival
Zephyros band website

In the Spirit @ Greekfest 2010
Brother Chrysostom and Father Rick, of Saints Cyril & Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church in Cary, getting in the spirit of Greek Fest

Friday, September 17, 2010

Peruvian Dance Party: Tropic Orchestra

Backlogged video from the vault: Tropic Orchestra performing at the Peruvian Independence Day Celebration back in July:

Rey Riera, seen on guiro here, has since taken over the bass position from Jeff Nelson. This gig was missing a trombonist, so Tamahl Gorham stepped in to double up on trumpets. Andres Leon takes a piano solo at the 3:30 min mark.

This was fun for me, my first time at the Peruvian American Coalition's yearly dinner/dance event at the Carrboro Century Center. For $20 it was a big plate of tasty Peruvian food, plus entertainment. The Peruvians have a healthy appetite for salsa, as well, and even after a full meal, they didn't hesitate to take to the dance floor. Here's a view of the scene as Tropic plays "La Murga":


Tropic Orchestra performs once this Saturday (9/18): at the Cary Caribbean Festival, around 5 pm. (An evening gig at the Copacabana in Raleigh, advertised here earlier, has been cancelled.) See calendar (right sidebar) for details.


If you would like to learn more about the Peruvian American Coalition, here are some local numbers you can call:

Durham (919) 672-6624
Chapel Hill (919) 308-8586
Raleigh (919) 641-5489
Cary (919) 414-7516

Little Selena
Jaime Roman sits in with Tropic Orchestra as a young girl, who performed later in the program as Selena, looks on. July 24, 2010 at Peruvian Independence Day Celebration.

Dancing to Rebuild: Resurrection Dance Theater of Haiti

The Resurrection Dance Theater of Haiti makes three stops in the Triangle this weekend, offering rare opportunities for cultural exchange while gathering donations to rebuild homes there.

Resurrection Dance Theater of Haiti

Friday (9/17):

8 pm, Stewart Theatre @ NC State in Raleigh: "Haitian Celebration!" Free, ticketed event. Hearts with Haiti will accept donations at the door.

Saturday (9/18):

11:30 am - 1:30 pm, The Ark, Duke East Campus in Durham: Masterclasses on Haitian drumming and dancing. Free and open to the public. Participants may RSVP to: mmsauls@duke.edu

Sunday (9/19):

4 pm, Reynolds Theater, Duke West Campus in Durham: Benefit Concert. Admission: $10 (discounts available). Duke box office: 684-4444 or online at tickets.duke.edu

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fiesta Pachanga!

North Carolina may be the only state in the union to have a publicly funded charanga orchestra: Charanga Carolina, UNC's Latin ensemble, plays their first concert of the season this Thursday (9/16) in Durham, at the neighboring NCCU campus.

Charanga @ Central
Charanga Carolina @ NCCU last April

Thursday's concert celebrates Hispanic heritage month at NC Central's "Fiesta Pachanga." The Fiesta from 5-9 pm includes Latin American food, and is free and open to the public. Charanga Carolina performs from 6-7 pm in the lobby of the Alfonso Elder Student Union.

I visited a Charanga rehearsal a few weeks ago, and saw many returning faces, along with a few new ones. Looking forward to hearing the new group in action.

WHAT: Charanga Carolina
WHEN: Thursday, 9/16, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
WHERE: Alfonso Elder Student Union Lobby, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC
Directions: http://www.nccu.edu/students/union.cfm

Admission: Free. Open to the public.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homecoming: Will Caviness NC All Star Quartet

UNC alum Will Caviness returned to Chapel Hill's West End Wine Bar last night, to jam with local jazz faculty. After graduating, Caviness attended New England Conservatory and now performs his own jazz compositions in New York City. His NC All Star Quartet included NCCU professors Thomas Taylor (drums) and Ed Paolantonio (piano), and UNC-Greensboro professor Steve Haines (bass). Saxophonist Andy Paolantonio also joined them onstage for one of Caviness' originals.

Will Caviness
Will Caviness, trumpet, with bassist Steve Haines

Will was the first trumpeter with Charanga Carolina, back in the early '00s; director David Garcia was there to welcome him back, as well as other Charanga alumni. Will's name was familiar to me from Charanga, but I don't remember hearing him play as a soloist. I was astounded by his versatility, playing both trumpet and flugel with refined speed at times, and forceful blues at others.

Will Caviness Quartet + Jim Ketch
UNC Jazz Director Jim Ketch sits in with his former student

At the end of the formal performance, Will asked if any of the trumpeters in the audience wanted to come up and join him. Jim Ketch, his former teacher at UNC, obliged. The tune was "Night in Tunisia," which turned out to be the Easter egg of the evening, full of witty turns which delighted musicians and audience alike. Thomas Taylor's rhythm doctoring made me aware, once again, that it's not always the showcasing of individuals that gives the greatest pleasure in the jam session, but the chemistry of surprise.

It's too dark to really see who's playing, but this is Jim Ketch soloing for the first two minutes; then you can see Will walk in to the mic from stage right:

Will Caviness Quartet + Jim Ketch


Artist website: Will Caviness, Jazz Trumpeter and Educator

Facebook event page: Will Caviness NC All Star Quartet

SAlsa JAzz SOul

SAJASO @ Yancy's Friday night: Lou Ramos, Billy Marrero, Pako Santiago, and Rick Radian back vocalist/leader Chino Casiano

Ramon Casiano, better known as Chino, has been making his brand of Latin jazz in the Triangle for several decades. A hardscrabble New Jersey native, Chino can reminisce about growing up around Frankie Ruiz, Herman Olivera and others who rose to prominence in that scene. Chino has a soulful authenticity as a singer of English-language standards such as "Autumn Leaves," one of the snappiest arrangements in Sajaso's book. Boricua to the core, he takes a high energy Cuban son, "El Cuarto de Tula," and playfully weaves it together with bombiplena lyrics and rhythms. "Elena, Elena," meet "Tula": a fitting meetingplace for two of the most storied women in Antillean verse.

On this gig were Andy Kleindienst on electric bass, Frank Vila on grand piano, a tricolor brass trio of Ricardo James (trumpet), Serena Wiley (tenor saxophone) and Joshua Vincent (trombone), and a seasoned array of percussionists who rotated positions, making for a collegial atmosphere: Pako Santiago, Billy Marrero, Rick Radian and guest Lou Ramos. Ramos, a sometime visitor from the Bronx, has family in the Triangle; his daughter directs church music and runs a music school in Raleigh.

SAJASO @ Yancy's
Joshua Vincent

Serena Wiley

Ricardo James

Yancy's is a jazz venue on the outskirts of Raleigh, with a small dance floor; most of the beers were reasonably priced domestics (I had a $3 Yuengling draft). The barbecue wings got rave reviews from Serena, who was dipping between sets.

You wouldn't think we'd need another video of "Oye Como Va." But as a descarga tune, it's a perfect opportunity for soloists to shine. Here, Andy Kleindienst gets funky on an unstoppable bass solo; Billy Marrero comes in on timbales around the 4 min mark:

The Tite Curet classic "La Esencia de Guaguanco" is an easygoing salsa tune in Sajaso's hands, but again the soloists paint some magic in the corners. First the percussionists converse, with Pako Santiago on bongos, Billy on timbal, and Rick on congas. Then Ricardo James shows what he can do with an extended trumpet solo:

Pako Santiago


SAJASO on Facebook

La Fiesta Popular

Day 2 of La Fiesta, with headliner Tropic Orchestra:

Tropic Orchestra

Tropic Orchestra

Tropic Orchestra
is like an unstable isotope, still evolving; ironically, I think the cave-like resonance of Jim Graham Building helped even out their sound. They're still missing some of the sharper turns in their arrangements. The rhythm section had a lot of power though, with this new conguero I don't know, Joseph Mejia, but whom I could hear well, Frank Vila on bongos as usual, and Billy Marrero filling in on timbales. Backing vocalists Ivan Ramirez and Josue Bracho Quintero also contributed hand percussion, giving a nice full sound.

The brass section welcomes back William Villalba on trumpet, an old bandmate of sonero Ricardo Diquez from earliest Samecumba days. Another veteran: Rey Riera has taken up his electric baby bass once again, which he hasn't played (that I can recall) since he was part of the long lost conjunto La Sexta Clave. It's good to see these gentlemen back in the music scene.

These guys can all still work on the cogency of their soloing, but the strength of Tropic as usual is in the driving quality of their street sound. What I realized, talking with another long-time DJ about this at La Fiesta, is that "our music" (salsa) is música popular, and that means the basic rhythms are unchanging and simple to reproduce, anywhere, under varying conditions of time and place. Every band doesn't have to be Spanish Harlem Orchestra to bring the dancers what they need. You can come away quite satisified with an average band, in an average town, on an average day, as long as the clave and tumbao aren't screwed up. And even an average band in an average town on an average day has its elevated moments. We live for those.

Some of my fave dancer pics:

La Fiesta del Pueblo 2010

La Fiesta del Pueblo

La Fiesta del Pueblo

La Fiesta

La Fiesta

blue nails

La Fiesta

Sunday, September 12, 2010

West End tiene su Mambo!

It's been way too long since I heard West End Mambo in the Triangle. The Winston-Salem-based band is one of NC's most solid and longstanding salsa acts, so it's a pity they don't have an opportunity to play around here more often. Therefore, hearing them at La Fiesta del Pueblo on Saturday was wonderful, although too brief (30 min).

West End Mambo

This whole event was indoors, sadly, because of rain threat I guess. The Jim Graham Building with its bare concrete floors was a box of cacophony, with sound bouncing around from various areas and exhibits. This was especially troublesome for a band like Durham's La Tropa de Tierra Caliente, whose oompah synth and pumping valve trombones did not take well to the livestock hall.

A funny thing happened on the way to West End Mambo's set--which may explain why their time was so truncated. One of the musicians (I won't name names!) got busted by security for having a bottle of liquor on the premises. This is streng verboten, apparently, which got him ejected from the Fairgrounds. While pianist/leader Cesar Oviedo scrambled for a last-minute replacement, who should walk by, enjoying La Fiesta, but Billy Marrero and Pako Santiago. Percussion, made to order! This was funny as they were hustled on stage, and sticks and maracas were pressed into their hands. Later, another local musician, the "ilustre Jaime Roman," was spotted and called onstage for a few numbers.

Vocal lead Maria Vasquez has a vocal range suited to Celia Cruz's salsa hits, so we heard a lot of these ("Usted Abuso," "Bemba Colora" "Quimbara"). We also heard a South American cumbia-salsa hybrid, "Mentirosa," popular in versions by Pastor Lopez and Willie Villegas among others.

One of best things about the gig was how SOLID the brass was. Alberto Carrasquillo is still the best there is for Latin trumpet in this area, and it was great (as always) to be reminded of that fact on Saturday. With his taste and experience leading the way, the fiery Ricardo James is a good complement, making for a hot trumpet section. Holding down the deep end, Steve Blake gets the job done on tenor saxophone. Steve does two things I appreciate: he plays Latin without any tentativeness, and he plays saxophone loud enough to be heard over a salsa band.

West End Mambo

This video features El Ilustre Jaime trading soneos (at min 3:30) on one of Maria's tunes; Alberto closes it with a blowout trumpet solo.