Day 2 of La Fiesta, with headliner 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: