On the coldest night of the year, I decided to jump on the road to Roanoke to warm myself at the Jefferson Center's annual Latin dance party, with headliner Bio Ritmo. The tradition has been so successful, the Center's programmer told me, that we should expect a few repeats of this event throughout the year. Additional beats (and a dance or two) were provided by Greensboro's DJ Diego, and dance promoter Salsa Noke cosponsored.
This was Bio Ritmo's first public performance with long-time bongocero Mike Montañez in the timbales position. Horn player Mark Ingraham was also getting his sea legs on backing vocals. Both were filling in for long-time timbalero Giustino Riccio, who is devoting some time to other projects at the moment. Mark plays a coronet, which he was telling me is heavier and more compact than a trumpet because it is actually a closer relative of the French horn.
Bringing power to the congas was Hector "Coco" Barez, whom I first met in Virginia Beach last July 4. Coco resides in Metro D.C., and had just flown in that morning from the Dominican Republic, where he toured with his main gig, hiphop duo Calle 13.
Toby hits low D.
It was a juicy night, as evidenced by this languorously undulating version of "Tu No Sabes," from the Jon Fausty-engineered EP Salsa System (2005). I was an excited witness the first time a raw version of this tune was heard in public, in March 2004 (and wrote about it here). It's an epicurean pleasure to be around as songs ripen and mature over time, like organic entities. JC Kuhl solos on tenor saxophone:
On the final tune of the evening, I snatched this video (below) of Mike and Coco battling it out in a percussion duel. The tune is an interesting one, "Locutor," stemming from Bio Ritmo's first full-length CD, Que Siga La Musica (1996). A regular part of their live show, the arrangement has morphed harmonically over the years, and also lends its name to the band's own Locutor record label.