Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bomba & Plena Evening in Cary SATURDAY (11/19)

This last-minute add to the calendar:

The Triangle's first-ever festival of bomba and plena, distinctive music and dance styles native to Puerto Rico, takes place TONIGHT, Saturday (11/19), from 6:30-10:30 pm at the Herbert C. Young Community Center in Cary.

The evening, celebrating "The Discovery of Puerto Rico," is sponsored by the Associación de Puertorriqueños Unidos de NC.

Miriam's bomba class
Bomba dancers led by Miriam Rivas at a 2009 rehearsal.

Featured performers include Baile Boricua NC, the graceful and energetic dance troupe led by Miriam Rivas, folkloric drumming by Kuumba Arts, and live music by Caribe Vibe, the sextet ensemble of Andres Leon and Billy Marrero, with special guests Jaime Roman and Lou Ramos.

I didin't find a schedule online, but Caribe Vibe says their first set will start at 8 pm. The guys say they will be playing "a little bit of everything!" so expect a wide tropical mix. Here's a video of Caribe Vibe I made back in October:

The early evening event (6:30-10:30 pm) is family friendly, with admission $6 for adults, $4 children under 12, and free for children 6 and under.


Assoc. of PR Unidos NC - calendar page

Friday, November 18, 2011

FREE CONCERT: Ilan Bar-Lavi Trio Saturday (11/19)

The young, unusual Latin jazz trio of Ilan Bar-Lavi plays a free concert in Chapel Hill this Saturday (11/19) at 5 pm in the FedEx UNC Global Education Center's Nelson Mandela Auditorium. The concert will close out this year's NC Latin American Film Festival.

This video by Martin Cohen at opens with a Bar-Lavi guitar solo:

The Israeli-Mexican guitarist is a 20-something graduate of Berklee School of Music; his own brand of avant-garde jazz blends his Latin and Middle Eastern roots.


Berklee Podcast: Ilan Bar-Lavi '09

UNC Global Event Calendar page
Presenter Event page

Bon Voyage, Kairaba: Last Show of 2011 THIS FRIDAY (11/18)


Diali Cissokho & Kairaba's
show at Tallula's tonight, 9:30 pm - midnight, is noteworthy for a couple of reasons:

This hot West African dance band, based in Carrboro, has been in the studio recently recording its FIRST CD. Door proceeds tonight ($5) go directly toward production costs to release it in early 2012.

In a few weeks, the entire band heads to Senegal and Mali, where they will spend the next couple of months touring, studying, and generally getting in touch with the Motherland. So, this will be their LAST NORTH CAROLINA SHOW of 2011.

Talulla's, with it's warm wood interior, is a SWEET VENUE for grooving, acoustic music. Located at 456 W. Franklin, next to the Carolina Brewery.



Facebook event page: Kairaba at Talulla's Friday (11/18), 9:30 pm - midnight, $5

Friday, November 11, 2011

Desert Blues: TINARIWEN This Sunday (11/13)

Tinariwen means "deserts" in Tomashek, the language of the Tuareg, a nomadic people who inhabit the Sahel regions of Northern and West Africa. It's also the name of a Tuareg band from Mali that makes hypnotic, guitar-driven "desert blues" their calling card. They play this Sunday (11/13) at The Cat's Cradle; intoxicating, Swiss singer/songwriter Sophie Hunger opens the 8 pm show.

Tinariwen on tour last month in Los Angeles. Photo (c) Timothy Norris.

Formed originally in 1979, Tinariwen broke out as an international touring band ten years ago, and has since produced five albums. Their latest, Tassili, takes its name from an Algerian region of spare beauty where they recorded outdoors and an impromptu tent studio. As that method suggests, they are returning to acoustic roots on this album. Here's a documentary about the process:

A bit more plugged in, here's a nice little rocker from their last album Imidiwan: Companions (2008):

Sit around the virtual campfire this Sunday (11/13) at Cat's Cradle; advance tix $22, day of show $25.


Cat's Cradle, Sunday, November 13, 8 pm TINARIWEN

Tinariwen artist website
Sophie Hunger artist myspace (opener)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Live Salsa at The Depot SATURDAY 11/5

A new dance space in Hillsborough opens its doors to salsa dancers this Saturday (11/5): The Depot, at 246 Nash Street, hosts a Latin Dance Party with Saludos Compay from 7:30 pm on. Jack Wolf reports there is a nice wood dance floor and plenty of space.

This dance is FREE, NO COVER; a hat will be passed for the musicians.

DJ Wolfy Jack gives the free dance lesson at 7:45; the band will play two sets starting around 8:30.

Erich Lieth takes a piano solo
Saludos Compay @ Museum of Natural Science, 2009


Triangle Salsa Meetup event page: Saturday, Nov. 5 - Saludos Compay
Saludos Compay artist website
The Depot in Hillsborough venue website

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ivory Coast's Dobet Gnahore FRIDAY (11/4)

Dobet Gnahore. Photo (c) Michel De Bock courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors.

Seriously...have I just never noticed before, or is the Triangle awash in opportunities to hear African music right now?

NEXT on the roster: Ivory Coasts's Dobet Gnahore. She's strikingly gorgeous, an experienced professional dancer, singer and musician, and she speaks French (so therefore, local interviews and press coverage have been limited). Music style is contemporary, with influences from Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana, Congo, etc. She's the daughter of Ivorian percussionist Boni Gnahore, and has three solo albums to her credit. Musically and personally, she has paired up with French guitarist Colin Laroche de Félin.


WHEN/WHERE: This FRIDAY (11/4) at Stewart Theater, 8 pm.

Indypick blurb here.


Tickets run $24-28 at Stewart Theater (NCSU still has the lowest precios populares among the area's elite arts series). Discounts apply if you are faculty, staff, or student at NCSU.

PARKING NOTE: because of some construction/campus street closings, Cates Ave. is blocked for about one block between Talley Student Center and the parking deck, but do not be deterred. You can access the usual FREE parking deck via PULLEN ROAD.

Coming soon: Touareg desert bluesmen, Tinariwen, at the Cat's Cradle, Sunday, Nov.13.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lost and Found: Sudanese Rapper Emmanuel Jal @ Duke TODAY

Emmanuel Jal. Photo (c) Mike Tsang.

Some of you may have heard in the news recently that the United States has sent 100 military advisors to Uganda to take on the Lord's Resistance Army, a notorious group that has massacred thousands and displaced millions in Eastern and Central Africa since the 1980s. Forcing children to commit heinous crimes as 'child soldiers' is among the LRA's most warped, and well-known atrocities.

Emmanuel Jal, one of these former "Lost Boys" of Southern Sudan, escaped the LRA and is now a musician/activist spreading a message of peace to the world. The rapper and spoken word artist will participate in a FREE performance and discussion today at Duke, in the Reynolds Theater in the Bryan Center: Tuesday, Nov. 1, 7:30-9:30 pm. Doors open at 6:30; free parking and dessert reception. This event is free and open to the public.

Jal has released ten hip hop albums, with tracks in Arabic, English, Swahili, Dinka and Nuer languages. Here's the video single from his upcoming See Me Mama album, introduced by Alicia Keyes:

The event is part of a Kenan Institute for Ethics series entitled, "Uprooted, Rerouted: Stories of African Refugees Losing and Finding Home."


Event page at Duke
Facebook event page
Emmanuel Jal artist myspace

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Treat: West African/Jazz FREE SHOW TONIGHT (10/31) by The Brand New Life

The Brand New Life is blend of jazz improvisation and West African mbalax and Afrobeat. For a Halloween treat, the Greensboro band plays a FREE SHOW TONIGHT (10/31) at 11 pm at The Station in Carrboro.

To learn more about how this band got together, read my profile in The Independent earlier this year. The last time I saw them, at Shakori Hills in October, they were seriously on fire, with heavy mbalax grooves by their Senegalese talking drummer, Mamadou Mbengue, following on the heels of jazz tunes with crazy meters. Mamadou takes a solo at the end of this clip of the BNL live at 2011 Floydfest:


Facebook event page: Halloween (10/31) with The Brand New Life

Venue calendar: The Station in Carrboro

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bio Ritmo Rises with new CD, "La Verdad"

Bio Ritmo gave a fresh first set at the joint party with Orquesta GarDel on October 14 at Durham's Motorco. I didn't take a lot of video, but here's a look at pretty much the whole band, during "Seguiras Criticando," a salsa tune with a heavy afrobeat coda from their last album Biónico:

Of course, we were here to celebrate the CD release of La Verdad, which has been gaining tons of favorable press at the national level. This month, Bio Ritmo is featured in vinyl collectors' mag Wax Poetics (in an issue with Eddie Palmieri on the cover), on the radio on PRI's The World, garnered a great album review on, and is currently charting #4 on CMJ's World Music Chart.

Bio Ritmo @ Motorco  10.14.11

I'm writing my own story now on the band's undulating 20-year career curve, and what makes these Richmond heroes so special. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Durham Academy Fiesta Latina FRIDAY (10/28)

UNC Charanga Carolina and Colombian harpist Pavelid Castañeda will headline once again this year at Durham Academy's Fiesta Latina. The PUBLIC IS INVITED to attend this free festival in honor of Hispanic Heritage month. Live music and dance program runs from 7:30-10:00 pm, and food trucks will be selling food out front from 6:30 pm on. Location: Brumley Performing Arts Building at Durham Academy Lower School, 3501 Ridge Rd (corner of Pickett), Durham. Admission: FREE.

Charanga Carolina has exciting news; its studio album La Familia has hit the streets. The CD represents a milestone for the collaborative student/community ensemble, founded c. 2003 by Dr. David F. García. The 11 tracks, which include homages to Los Van Van, Arsenio Rodriguez, La Sonora Ponceña, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto and Tito Puente, can be sampled at the Charanga's revernation page. To purchase the CD, for a $12 donation to UNC's Department of Music, send your check and return address to: David Garcia, UNC Department of Music, Hill Hall CB#3320, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-3320.

charanga violins, 10/2010
Charanga Carolina at this time last year--October 2010

This year, Charanga alum Andy Kleindienst has taken over direction of the group. The ensemble's first public performance was a few weeks ago, so this semester's new recruits should be pretty warmed up for the DA concert.

Andy Kleindienst with Atiba Rorie, Orquesta GarDel
Andy Kleindienst playing trombone with Orquesta GarDel in August

I last saw Pavelid Castañeda a few weeks ago at a private concert at UNC for the university's Board of Visitors. He was part of a very exciting program, put together by Lisa Beavers at the Center for the Study of the American South, which brought together 3 local masters of ancient stringed instruments from three distinct global traditions: Pavelid on Latin American folk harp, Naji Hilal on oud, and Diali Cissokho on kora. For the artists, presenters and myself, it was an intense exchange of music and information; future collaborations are already being planned, so keep on the lookout for that!

Pavelid Castañeda Florez
Pavelid Castañeda @ The ArtsCenter in June 2010

Pavelid always wows audiences with his percussive, rhythmic style and unusual arrangements for harp, ranging from traditional folk music to salsa and rock, and his own fiery compositions. He is about to release an original solo album, currently in co-production with his son, the prominent jazz harpist Edmar Castaneda.

The Durham Academy Fiesta Latina is coordinated annually by Bela Kussin, and realized with the help of many volunteers at the school. It's not only meant for the cultural enrichment of students and staff, but also as a gift for the community at large. Brumley is a beautiful new arts facility, with great auditorium seating as well as room for dancing, which will be encouraged during Charanga's sets. Come out and celebrate Latino culture and the arts in our community!

Monday, October 24, 2011

BREAKING: La Bruja @ Duke TONIGHT (10/24)

BREAKING: Just learned that Nuyorican spoken word artist and rapper La Bruja, aka Caridad de la Luz, performs at a student-sponsored event on the Duke campus tonight. It's FREE and OPEN to the public, and there has been a last minute venue change. The following information was confirmed for me by the artist today at 3 pm:

La Bruja performs tonight, Monday (10/24) from 6-7 pm, followed by discussion until 8 pm, in the McLendon Tower, 5th floor media room. This building is part of the new Keohane Quad on Duke's West Campus (see map here).

Here's a 2009 article about La Bruja in the New York Times. She's performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and on HBO's Def Poetry Jam.


La Bruja artist webpage
La Bruja on Facebook

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goran Bregovic @ Duke CONCERT REVIEW

Goran Bregovic BLEW THE ROOF off Page Auditorium Friday night (10/14). My reflections boiled down to this, a review essay which I originally wrote for another blog, but which finds its home here instead:

Goran Bregovic: Unplugged, and All Together Now

by Sylvia Pfeiffenberger

The name of Goran Bregovic’ “Wedding and Funeral Orchestra” is part satirical—a grand joke on the part of the perfectionist, prankster, film composer and former rock star—but it also promises a return to our unamplified, tribal human past, a time when social rituals were marked with big gatherings and live music, and individuals were suspended, not in ethereal social networks, but in the gelatinous broth of clan, nation, and religion.

Of course, there’s a dark side to this sort of nostalgia: tribalism and nationalism have exacted a high price from human societies, and none have paid more dearly or more regularly than the Balkan region, and former Yugoslav republics, from whence Bregovic hails. Sarajevo, at the borderline between Catholics and Muslims, Jews and Gypsies, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, is “a place where nothing is really pure. It’s always a mix,” says Bregovic in an interview with his publicist. Centuries of war have shaped the “small” regional culture of the Balkans into a sort of “Frankenstein,” he says. In the 1990s, war again forced the retired rocker into Parisian exile, which proved a stepping stone to creating his own global form of folk music, attuned to the large and small screens of the IT age.

The listening experience we had in Page Auditorium Friday night (10/14/11) was unlike anything you can hear outside of a church, a classical concert hall, or a movie theater nowadays. Who’s got the budget to commission composers and produce large ensembles of live instrumental and vocal musicians anymore? Only institutions that run on charity donations, and Hollywood. Bregovic’s orchestra was actually a multicultural collective, made up of four sections: a string quartet, an all-male choir, the Bulgarian vocal duo the Radkova sisters, and a Gypsy vocalist with brass band. Each unit operated independently at times but cooperated as a seamless unit, like a four-chambered, polyphonic heart. The some-time soundtrack composer ‘conducted’ while facing the audience, from his guitarist’s chair, one hand frequently aloft to signal timing, entrances and phrasing. It was like hearing a miniature Mahler symphony, blown through Surround Sound.

Photo (c) by Andrew Shpak; courtesy of Pomegranate Arts.

Bregovic built up the evening’s set like a cinematic-depressive fairy tale, an episodic ride that vacillated between drunken exhilaration and island-of-the-damned sobriety. Capturing our attention from the get go, Bregovic mumbled a few introductory words, then let single narrators (guitar, clarinet, violin) lock in our attention. Just as we were getting comfortable in our seats, the Gypsy brass band announced itself from the back of the hall and marched down the aisles, horns blazing, waking our senses in a visceral rush. Suddenly, in that moment, we became one audience: the polyphonic heart had found a body. For the rest of the night, waves of sound flooded us with animal joy, and uneven folk meters jogged our human jelly like a friendly reminder of mortality.

Bregovic clearly relished the role of conductor, and ultimately his instrument was us, the kinetic collective that responded to his every direction, be it to clap and rally to our feet, or to hush and listen to his next bit of storytelling. The ruckus was loudest in the cheap seats, but firm fan footholds were scattered throughout the room, as bodies swayed and hands danced in the air, Mediterranean-style. Shouts in Slavic languages rang out occasionally; next to me, a Turkish couple mouthed the words to Bregovic’ Emir Kuristica soundtracks. Did they understand the words? “Not really--it’s close to us,” they shrugged, electric grins lighting up their faces. On the other side of me, a couple of Duke alums, here simply because they had bought $5 tickets to every show of the season right before they graduated, radiated the same ecstasy.

They say that conductors have one of the highest job satisfaction ratings, but that role is typically dictatorial. Yet, while directing sound with hairline precision, Bregovic brings something fundamentally rebellious to the role. This goes back to his roots as a teenage bass player in the band “Bijelo Dugme” (“White Button”). Under Communist rule in the former Yugoslavia, just playing rock music at all was an act of rebellion, and Bregovic learned how to walk the line of cultural resistance without getting thrown in jail. Back then, backed by a rock band, he might have parodied Marshal Tito’s uniform on stage; now, in a silky cream suit and backed by his ethnically diverse orchestra, he delivered impure rants about sex and dying, and antifascist ditties such as the Italian partisan hymn “Bella Ciao.” Bregovic rejected classical music training as a child, when he was forced to take violin; today, he says, he chooses to play with folk musicians out of the same sense of rebellion against formal high culture. With rock star excess, Bregovic kept one-upping his encores, announcing, “it would be a shame to go to bed after that.”

Through the aperture of the Balkans’ “small culture,” where impurities are a virtue, Bregovic has created a sense of global belonging out of his own exile and displacement, genetically modifying folk music so that it feels like our pop and movie music. It’s not even a metaphor at times, such as when Bregovic plays zydeco covers and tunes he wrote for Iggy Pop. Is that breakneck Balkan number smuggling a ska beat, ‘50s rock and roll, or a Mexican quebradita? It’s a question that doesn’t really need answering, because Bregovic has hit the folk/pop dancebeat button in a way that feels universal, or rather: in a way that feels local, in every language and cultural tradition. With the vision of a film director, Bregovic reconnects us with the unamplified roots of his particular folk cultures, making space for us to feel social connection through “big,” live music in an increasingly digital world.

As it turns out, the musicians on stage had been only intermediaries in Bregovic' raucous ode to sex and death; the human orchestra was us.

“You’re a beautiful audience. Good night.”

Photo (c) by Mikhail Ognev; courtesy of Pomegranate Arts.

Regina Carter in Raleigh TONIGHT (10/22)

Is there any Triangle stage that features black women artists more regularly, and in greater proportion to their overall programming, than Arts NC State? In recent memory, they've presented Buika, Esperanza Spalding and Emeline Michel; already this season, they introduced me to the exquisite blueswoman Ruthie Foster. Yet to come in November: Ivorienne singer/dancer Dobet Gnahore (11/4), and local cellist/singer Shana Tucker (11/11).

TONIGHT (10/22): Jazz violinist and MacArthur "Genius" grant winner Regina Carter performs at Stewart Theatre. Her latest album, Reverse Thread, integrates African folk tunes with jazz, in a band featuring kora and accordion. Tickets run $28-32 for general public, with NCSU staff and student discounts available.

Our good friend John Brown, director of Duke's jazz program, leads a pre-show discussion at 7 pm. The discussion is free and open to the public in the Walnut Room, in Talley Student Center.


Saturday, October 22, 8 pm: Regina Carter @ Stewart Theatre

Regina Carter artist website

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Africa Calling: Angelique Kidjo SUNDAY (10/16)

Afropop Amazon: Angelique Kidjo (photo: Andrzej Pilarczyk)

There's been such a wealth of great African music in town this month. Although I had to miss Bassekou Kouyate at Duke this Friday, I did this preview for dP's blog The Thread.

I did get a chance to see most of the Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS project at UNC that same evening. What a dedicated group of musicians, student actors, and volunteers. To mention only some is to slight all, but the vocalists in particular are so wonderful; I'm now a huge Lizzy Ross fan. To read more about the Mau a Malawi concept album, see my Indy story about it here. To visit the Stories of AIDS webpage, go here, where you can download the album for a donation to the arts-based charity Talents of the Malawian Child. It's for a good cause, yes; but just as importantly, it's great original music that deserves to be widely heard.

As a preview to that evening, Peter Mawanga, the Malawian co-producer of Mau of Malawi, gave a sweet, free show at The Station on Wednesday prior. Some of the guys from Kairaba backed him up, as well as others from the show. I got to get a good look and listen to Peter's "Jozi," his custom-made South African guitar. He and Mau a Malawi collaborator Andrew Finn Magill are still actively songwriting, and they played one song that they had written only 2 days before, dedicated to "those women who go through so much," in Peter's words, "before being forced to sell their bodies on the streets in a country that is ravaged by HIV and AIDS. This song is for those ladies." How rare and moving it was to hear a man speak about sex workers with such compassion; I felt like I was understanding the song, although the lyrics were in Chichewa. That IS the univeral power of music to communicate beyond language, a gift Peter has in great measure.

Kairaba played an opening set, intense as usual; one hears them growing in confidence, as they are about to head into the studio this week to record a first album. Kairaba's spiritual head, Diali Cissokho, always wins a crowd. His euphoric moment in the show this time came when he (somehow) balanced his kora upside down, and still managed to played it. I didn't have the stamina to take in Kairaba and Toubab Krewe out at Shakori Hills last weekend, but from what I hear, Diali did a surprise, walk-on vocal with one of Toubab Krewe's songs--the instrumental just happened to be a song he knew from Senegal. I wish I could have been there to see THAT. Lesson learned--always expect the unexpected from this charismatic griot of Carrboro.

The African music streak ain't over. Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo hits UNC's Memorial Hall this Sunday (10/16). Here's my Indy pick writeup about her. I saw Kidjo a few years back, touring with Santana at Walnut Creek. The global pop diva still commands respect as a strong voice from, and for, Africa. I was really stunned by this bare, unplugged duo performance that shows just how strong that voice is:


Angelique Kidjo @ UNC Memorial Hall, Sunday (10/16) at 7: 30 pm; tickets $10 (student) to $39 price range.


Listen to Bonjour Africa, Sundays 4-6 PM on WNCU 90.7 FM with host Bouna Ndiaye

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shakori Fall Preview: Oct 6-9

Where to begin? This fall's Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival lineup is fitting to blow my mind: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Toubab Krewe, Rosie Ledet, Bela Fleck, Hobex, Kairaba, Peter Lamb & The Wolves, The Brand New Life, Saludos Compay, Locos Por Juana, Preston Frank--just when you thought I'd be jaded, I've got Shakori fever like never before.

Two artists back-to-back at the Cabaret Tent on Saturday that I haven't heard, but hope to catch this time around:

Lakota John, a young, dobro bottleneck slide guitarist (he's 14) from Robeson County, who is half-Lumbee and half-Lakota. He is one of MusicMaker's Next Generation blues artists. I met him and his father down in Pembroke when I was researching this recent tale for the Indy about Dark Water Rising.

Leyla McCalla, a banjoist/cellist from New Orleans who is also a MusicMaker Next Gen artist. She reportedly plays jazz standards, originals, and the occasional Haitian folk song.

As often happens at Shakori Hills, musicians from different genres get together and mix it up. At the last Shakori festival in April, members of Orquesta GarDel gave a salsa workshop on the porch, and some oldtime fiddlers came up and jammed. Here's that video, to whet your appetite for whatever may happen this weekend (Thurs.-Sun., October 6-9):


Monday, October 3, 2011

Kairaba @ Haw River Ballroom (9/14)

Kairaba's September 14 show at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw was a benefit for women's farm coops in the Central African Republic. If you're looking for backstory, my feature about Diali Cissokho & Kairaba appeared in the Indy recently.

Diali Cissokho and Austin McCall


It was a great show and event, with other presentations by artists and community organizers. This was one of my favorite moments, when Diali and John Westmoreland exchanged musical dialogue between the kora and guitar:

Jonathan Henderson and Will Ridenour

Here's a montage of two more song clips from the concert:

It's great to see this band continue to thrive, I can't even keep up with all their gigs lately. Good news: they plan to visit Diali's home in Senegal and play some shows there in December.


Kariaba 9/14 @ Haw River Ballroom

Catching Up With The Beast (10/1)

The Beast and Chit Nasty played a birthday party at Kings last Saturday (10/1). Chit Nasty is loud and funky as hell, with a Rick James meets Little Richard vibe.

The Beast @ Kings

That must've set the tone, because The Beast was a little raunchier than usual. Here's one of their newer songs, "Just Do It":

The Beast

The Beast @ Kings
Beast fans with The Bieb @ Kings


Remember the earthquake? That night (8/23), The Beast did this live improv with special guests, a biweekly affair that happens second and fourth Tuesdays at Jack Sprat in Chapel Hill. The next "aLive Tuesday" happens 10/10, with special guest TBA.

SAMPLE OF THE WEEK: Astor Piazzola meets an earthquake theme.

Sitting in: The Brand New Life's Seth Barden (bass) and Walter Fancourt (saxophone).

Stephen Coffman on drums, Pierce Freelon on the mic, Eric Hirsh on piano/ keyboard/ samples.

Shana Tucker @ NCMA (9/2)

Shana Tucker gave a gift to the North Carolina Museum of Art on September 2: a free concert to lure visitors in for the last day of the exhibition, "30 Americans." Attendance that night broke records, according to Museum program director George Holt.

Shana Tucker @ NCMA 9.2.11

Her quartet featured Mark Wells, Peter Kimosh, and Stephen Coffman. Here is her lovely take on Nora Jones' "Wish I Could":

Young people were especially delighted with Shana's big finish: a New Orleans version of "You Are My Sunshine." Here's a montage of the dancing that ensued.


Here's Shana with a trio, performing the same tune, in a different style. With Mark Wells, piano, and Brevan Hampden, percussion, here's her Latin version of "You Are My Sunshine" one recent evening at Brasa Brasilian Steakhouse:

Raleigh Rally: Hopscotch

This was the first year I really applied myself to delve into Hopscotch, which transformed Raleigh into a downtown funzone the second weekend of September. It was really fun to walk the distance between venues and to see a ton of people on the streets, popping in and out of clubs. I'd definitely say (as a Durhamite) that there's been an uptick since in my comfort levels with going out in Raleigh; Spark.con's freebies the following weekend served as a booster shot.


SATURDAY NIGHT @ POUR HOUSE: With an all-club wristband, I milled about for awhile seeing various indie phenoms, and slowly figured out (DUH) that I probably needed to go to the Pour House, where it was all horn bands. I didn't manage to see that full lineup, but heard fantastic things about Fight The Big Bull (out of Richmond), and my good pals Peter Lamb and The Wolves. I arrived during the set of D-town Brass, a band with quite a few guys in it I know from thar and yonder, but had somehow never heard before. It was experimental and groove-based, kind of nerd-funky, and reminded me of movie scores. The sheer size of that horn-line is devastating, both as an audio and a visual. Orchestral in scope, the front line was like a Noah's ark of trombones, trumpets, saxophones, and clarinets. I'm not sure what all percussion they had back there, but congas for sure, marimbas maybe. Sonorous and intense.

D-town Brass
D-town Brass

Budos Band
Budos Band

It started to really fill up as the clouds gathered for Budos Band. These guys brought an unrelenting Latin fusion groove all night. Hopscotchers pitched glowsticks on stage--landing right in the bell of the bari sax player's horn at some points--and instead of getting pissed, they seemed revved by the friendly dose of aggression. They rained glowsticks, and powerful Latin funk beats, right back at us. I really liked Bobby the conga/bongo player's setup and slap style, idiosyncratic and well adapted. "We're the black sheep [of the Daptone label]," these guys told me later, "but people like us, so they can't get rid of us."

Pour House Hopscotch 2011
Raleighites raise a beer to Hopscotch

Sunday, October 2, 2011

CMF: The Remix

Carrboro Music Festival, you are always so beautiful. My review comes a week late, but I've spent all that time soaking in the good energy that overflowed into the streets last Sunday (9/27).

Carrboro Music Fest 2011
Celtic Tim Smith

Tim Smiths @ CMF 2011

Tim Smiths @ CMF 2011
Reggae Tim Smith

Everyone has their own CMF, whether one targets bands to see, or just wanders the 25 in- and outdoor venues for hours without a plan. I did a little of both; saw both Tim Smiths get together (that could have ruptured space/time, but we were lucky), and found myself strangely attracted to bluegrass and oldtime music. It's all that fingerpicking and harmony.

Rough Cut @ CMF 2011
Rough Cut

Gravy Boys @ CMF 2011
The Gravy Boys

Gravy Boys @ CMF 2011

The Gravy Boys are high on that list. They practice something that old-time salsa and Latin bands used to do, a phenomenon I call "three men on a mic." There's something sweet about that ear-tuned harmony and close attention to group dynamic. Sing it for me, Gravy Boys:

Looking at their calendar, I see The Gravy Boys are coming to The Blue Note Grill on Bus. 15-501 in Durham, this Thursday, Oct. 6--a free show, from 7-9 pm.

These two videos capture that freewheeling, Weaver Street spirit. I am informed that the hula hooper accompanying Tim's band is Julia Hartsell Crews:

Tim Smith Band

Climb Jacob's Ladder

It was my first time seeing Climb Jacob's Ladder, a band I've never been able to figure out how it sounds just from reading descriptions. I can see why: extremely eclectic and socially conscious, the band alludes to Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, and other 70s landmarks, but never stays in one place for very long.

Saludos Compay at Tyler's Parking Lot has become an 8 pm tradition. I don't have any photos or videos (it was dark by then) but a good time was had, as always.

REVIEW: Caribe Vibe @ Cantina South 10/1

Two things I've noticed about the "international" party scene lately: a) it seems to be migrating more and more to Raleigh, and b) the names for some of the new parties sound like new brands in Trojan's expanding product line (i.e., "Latinsations," "Latinvibe," etc.).

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina 10.1.11

New local sextet Caribe Vibe, co-led by Billy Marrero and Andres Leon, seems like the perfect band for this newer, "hotter" Raleigh scene. On just their third gig out in public last night, they brought an agile and unique sound to the newly remodeled Cantina South on Glenwood. Breaking away from either "salsa" or "Latin jazz" formulas, the creative ensemble is making pure dance music that is relaxed, sophisticated and just a little outside the box. Also, absolutely perfect for relatively intimate club spaces. When a sextet doesn't feel like a logistical compromise, but an opportunity for musical creativity, you know you have something special.

So, what's different? For a half-Boricua band--Alberto Carrasquillo (trumpet), Nelson Delgado (vocal/ bongo), and Billy Marrero (congas)--it also sports a heavy Venezuelan angle: co-leader Andres Leon on the piano, and his Maracaibo cohort Josue Bracho on drumset. American Paul Dobelstein plays electric bass.

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina  10.1.11

That drumset (in place of timbales) sets Caribe Vibe apart from other salsa bands, giving it a jazzy versatility and a rock-heavy downbeat reminiscent of Cuban timba. Yet unlike most Latin jazz combos, Caribe Vibe keeps vocals and dancefloor appeal always foregrounded. Nelson Delgado, also a lead vocalist with Charanga Carolina and Orquesta GarDel, as well as a percussionist for many years in Carnavalito, maximizes both talents in the sextet--as sonero and bongocero.

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina 10.1.11

In repertoire, they have a similar range to Billy and Andres's large ensemble, Orquesta K'Che: salsas, son/cha cha chas, merengues and cumbias. But even on well-worn standards, Caribe Vibe isn't treading water; with drumset and electric bass on hand, "Oye Como Va" can really plunge off the deep end toward rock. On "Moliendo Cafe," a classic pianist's showcase, Andres played a solo which is one of his best I've heard:

Caribe Vibe showed its own personality with two boleros that the group adapted into exciting salsa arrangements. This one, "La Barca" (Luis Miguel) got my blood up, with instrumental soloing on piano and trumpet:

Dancers loved this show; the sound (mixing and volume) was excellent. The venue has mixed bar- and restaurant-style seating, and a moderately sized wood dancefloor. Door cover was $5. I would definitely hit this band/venue up again.

Caribe Vibe @ Cantina  10.1.11

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

LINKS: Joan Soriano Review & Interview

Bachatero Joan Soriano was at Motorco on 9/23--but rather then tell you all about it here, I'm going to save my breath and repost this live review I wrote for dP's blog, The Thread.

joan soriano
Photo by Lisa B.

There's this interview too, which I did by phone with Joan in the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Durham Latino Festival SATURDAY (9/24)


Parks & Rec has announced on Friday that the festival will be MOVED INDOORS to Edison Johnson Recreation Center, 500 W. Murray Ave, due to rainy conditions at Rock Quarry Park.

Durham's Latino Festival
, which was postponed back on August 6 due to Hurricane Irene, is rescheduled for this Saturday (9/24) from 1 - 6 pm, at Edison Johnson Recreation Center, 500 W. Murray Ave.

Band bookings have changed, so here's the latest schedule which I received today from Parks and Recreation officials:

Main Stage Schedule

1:00 – 1:10 Welcome/Introductions - DPR Director - Rhonda Parker

Mayor Bill Bell, Felipe Cabrera, Consul of Mexico Rep.

1:10 – 1:50 Rey Norteño (BAND) (1st half)

1:50 – 2:05 Host/announcement of MAJOR SPONSORS

2:05 – 2:25 Rey Norteño (BAND) (2nd half)

2:25 – 2:40 Host/announcement of all sponsors – gifts/raffle & introduction of next “entertainment”.

2:40 – 3:30 Guillo Carias Trio (1st half)

3:30 – 3:45 Host/announcement of all sponsors – gifts/raffle & introduction of next “entertainment”.

3:45 – 4:00 Guillo Carias Trio (2nd half)

4:00 – 4:10 Host/announcement of all sponsors – gifts/raffle & introduction of next “entertainment”.

4:10 – 4:30 ZUMBA

4:30 – 5:00 Realeza de la Sierra (BAND) (1st half)

5:00 – 5:20 Host/Soccer Championship Awards/announcement of all sponsors – gifts & introduction of next “entertainment”.

5:20 – 6:00 Realeza de la Sierra (BAND) (2nd half)

Please feel free to contact me with any last minute questions or concerns.

Rosalie Bocelli (919) 560-4355 X 27235 or (919) 452-3476 cell
Latino Festival is FREE and OPEN to the public; Rain or Shine.

SI: blankets, lawn chairs, kids
NO: coolers, booze, pets.

Guillo Carias @ Sullivan's
Guillo Carias Trio


A couple of my favorites are playing, namely the Dominican jazz trio of Guillo Carias, and Rey Norteño, whose norteña song "Raleigh" was a hit on Mexican Regional radio a few years back. I haven't seen them perform in ages, so I'm curious to see what singer/songwriter Fred Huerta, et al., is up to these days. Here's a neat little rehearsal video posted about a year ago:

La Realeza de la Sierra has kind of a technobanda style, and one member who appears to be a young girl playing keyboards, according to videos on YouTube. Here's their demo:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bull City Leans Forward for Shana Tucker, Peter Lamb @ Casbah (8/20 Review)

Peter Lamb, Shana Tucker show
forward-leaning jazz: Peter Lamb & The Wolves

If you were at Casbah on August 20th, you know that Shana Tucker's double bill with Peter Lamb and The Wolves was remarkable. People came to this show with a certain hunger for a serious listening experience, and they got it: two of the Triangle's most innovative acoustic jazz groups, together in one night for the first time ever.

Shana Tucker 8.20.11
chambersoul: Shana Tucker Quartet

The chambersoul songstress and her cello opened, backed by Stephen Coffman (drumset), Mark Wells (piano) and Darion Alexander (acoustic bass). Shana's banter between songs, rambling, funny, and animated, brought the receptive crowd in even closer. It was a pretty ravishing set; highlights included Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and Bill Withers' "Who Is (S)he and what Is (S)he To You?" both of which featured strong interplay (musical and satirical) with her bass player.

Peter Lamb, Shana Tucker  show

She burned down the house, at least among all the ladies present, with a new original tune about a certain type of annoying phone call and/or text message (it may not have an official title yet, but she jokingly called it "The Booty Call Song"). Wolves Peter Lamb (sax) and Al Strong (trumpet/flugel) came out early to solo on "Bye Bye Blackbird" while Shana sang. Here's one of Shana's originals from her album Shine, a song called "November" that hits me every time:

After an intermission, Peter, Al, Mark and Stephen returned, joined by George Knott (double bass/bass saxophone) and guest Brevan Hampden (congas), to play The Wolves' set. I've never heard the horns sound better, in fact sound overall at Casbah (Sound by Evan) was peachy. If one had a request, for the artists' sake as well as the audience, it would be the installation of central A/C in this important venue. Near the stage, and especially on it, the heat from lights, etc. made for trying conditions. That said, nothing was going to stop this from being a glorious, expansive night of music. Here's "Mona Lisa," veritably busting with incredible solos by Mark Wells on piano, Peter Lamb on sax, and Al Strong with the melody on flugelhorn:

The Wolves did their usual powerranger-morphing through Astor Piazzola, Ray Charles, Nat Cole, et al. A lot of older, jazz/pop standards have cryptic Latin cover versions, or vice versa, and sitting at the bar, one popped out at me that night that, for some reason, I had never noticed before: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "Veinte Años," the latter best known in a version by the Buena Vista Social Club. The former is credited to songwriters Harry Warren/Al Dubin, the latter to Maria Teresa Vera.

I'm not sure who deserves the first credit, and they differ enough past the distinctive opening bars to probably legally qualify as different songs. But my instincts lean toward Maria Teresa Vera, who was born in 1895, and wrote "Veinte Años" as a habanera (the Cuban style of contradanza, whence tango got its bassline). Nat King Cole did "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" with a Latin percussionist (Jack Costanzo), and the English lyrics not only treat a similar theme (broken dreams/long lost loves), but also mention an "old Cathedral town," which seems like an allusion to Latin America.

In any case, the really important question is this: Has anyone merged these songs? How breathtaking would that be? Wolves, you have your mission...

Danke schön, in the meantime, for restyling my brain to take in this German drinking song, "Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen," sung by with Mark Wells as if he were Jeff Buckley at an Oktoberfest. This was a juicy encore:

If you missed it, you missed it.

Peter Lamb and The Wolves and Shana Tucker both have new albums; listen and learn more at their websites.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Enchanted Ballroom: GarDel on the Haw

Drive west out Highway 54, way out, past the Cane Creek Reservoir. Just when you think you've gone too far, turn left at the sign for "Saxapahaw." Keep driving south, down the Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road, until you enter this rural dell. There, rising on your left, is not the moon, but a glowing, propped-open, industrial dye kettle--it doubles as the sign for the Haw River Ballroom.

A ballroom, in the wilderness? Surely, this is a fantasy only Hollywood could have dreamed up, right?

Wrong: Walk inside the former Dye House to a cotton mill, over a grate lit up from below, and you step into a ballroom in the truest sense, fit for Tito Puente--or Orquesta GarDel, who performed at the Ballroom last Friday (8/26). Two levels--wooden dancefloor below, balcony-like seating area above--and a complete stage with beautiful lighting and sound. This may be the most perfect Piedmont venue to book a salsa band.

Dancers and GarDel stalwarts did turn out in pretty good numbers, though it's hard to say if Irene fears might have kept some home. It really didn't hurt the party any, which had critical mass and then some. Taking advantage of ideal filming conditions, GarDel had its own videographers there, so hopefully some pro video of the show will eventually emerge. Paso gave a dance lesson before the opening set, and Felix Padilla led some social dancing in the casino rueda style. (It was particularly fun dancing rueda to one of GarDel's timba tunes.)

GarDel @ Haw River Ballroom,  8.26.11

Some recent changes in the orchestra: former conguero Jose Sanchez is officially no longer with the band; the Winston-Salem resident performs all over the Carolinas with a host of Latin groups, and had to pull back his energies somewhere in order to keep his family a priority. We wish him all the best! Looks like Atiba Rorie, a local leader in African percussion, will be filling the gap. Atiba has gigged in a number of Latin bands in the Triangle, and his powerful playing and cool presence are a welcome addition to GarDel.

GarDel @ Haw River Ballroom, 8.26.11

GarDel @ Haw River Ballroom,  8.26.11

The dance energy was pretty explosive. Here's the last jam of set 2 (except for an encore descarga). The tune is Ray Barretto's "Indestructible"; Brevan Hampden (timbales) and Atiba Rorie (congas) both solo:

GarDel @ Haw River Ballroom,  8.26.11

GarDel @ Haw River Ballroom,  8.26.11

On the GarDel event horizon:

Friday, October 14 - a long-awaited double bill with Bio Ritmo, celebrating Ritmo's 20th anniversary release party, at Motorco in Durham.


Worth the drive: Haw River Ballroom

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CONJUNTO BREVE debut in Chapel Hill TONIGHT (8/17)

Brevan Hampden leads a new Latin ensemble tonight at Cinco de Mayo, a Chapel Hill restaurant at 1502 E. Franklin Street, near Estes Dr., located across from the Sienna Hotel. Cover is $7.

Brevan Hampden
Percussionist Brevan Hampden

Sources have been tight-lipped about the new dance organ, dubbed Conjunto Breve. Rumor has it that Hampden will be joined by members of Orquesta GarDel, Eric Hirsh, Atiba Rorie, Alberto Carrasquillo, Pete Kimosh and Jaime Roman, to perform charts unknown.

Salsa Xtreme is a fairly new Latin party, bringing salsa, merengue, bachata, et al., back to Wednesday nights. Empresario Cesar Merlos, dancer, DJ and former club manager, goes back far enough to remember this longtime Chapel Hill tradition.

Dance lesson at 9:30 pm; invite says "dress to impress." Party rolls at 10.