Friday, March 25, 2011

Salsa & Charanga @ UNC THIS WEEKEND

POST UPDATED 3/26: check out this excellent short documentary about Charanga Carolina by Samantha Lapinsky. The documentary starts at minute 1:16:


Charanga Carolina
, harpist Pavelid Castañeda and Orquesta GarDel are all making appearances at UNC this weekend, at two different concerts happening Friday (3/25) and Saturday (3/26). Both events take place at 7 pm in the Kenan Music Building Rehearsal Hall.

Charanga Carolina 2.19.11

Friday's concert features two sets of dance music by the Charanga, and a solo set by Colombian harpist Pavelid. This benefit for the Scholars' Latino Initiative program has a $7 door.

Saturday's show is a double-bill salsa dance party with Charanga and Orquesta GarDel. Co-sponsor Mambo Dinamico celebrates its 9th anniversary with live dance performances. Door price is $10.

MORE INFO On Facebook, "Charanga Carolina"

As a warmup, here's video of Charanga Carolina's last concert in February. The group combined with the UNC jazz band here, and features special guest Conrad Herwig on trombone:

El Centro Hispano Benefit @ Casbah FRIDAY (3/25)

Casbah hosts a benefit for Durham's El Centro Hispano today starting this afternoon at 3:30 pm, with live capoeira dancers, a crafts bazaar, salsa lessons and DJ'ed dance party extending into the evening until 2 am:

DJ Steven Feinberg and DJ Alvaro, Grupo Capoeira Brasil are featured.

All proceeds benefit El Centro; $15 door.

El Centro Hispano
is currently the largest grassroots Latino organization in the state with an active membership base of more than 600 dues-paying members. Founded in 1992, the independent non-profit provides programs and services to more than 5,000 community members annually.

MORE INFO: Casbah event link here

Soul Rebels Brass Durham 6/3

Scenes from last fall, never posted...the first annual African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County was a big hit with me, and about 15,000 other people, according to their website; featured performers included Chuck Brown, godfather of DC gogo, and Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars. Look for this festival again on Labor Day weekend, 2011.

Soul Rebels Brass Band 2010 in Raleigh

This Soul Rebels Brass Band footage is making me wish I could attend New Orleans Jazzfest coming up in late April-early May.

Next best thing: Soul Rebels play Papa Mojo's Roadhouse on June 3 [ReverbNation event link].

Soul Rebels Brass Band 2010 in Raleigh

Soul Rebels Brass Band 2010 Raleigh

Soul Rebels Brass Band 2010 Raleigh

Soul Rebels Brass Band 2010 Raleigh

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sacred Steel Conference Starts THURSDAY (3/17)

The Southern Sacred Steel Conference kicks off this Thursday (3/17) with a free front porch concert at UNC's Center for the Study of the American South. The Allen Boys perform between 5-7 pm. The free, public concert includes an audience conversation moderated by folklorist Robert Stone.

Facebook event page: The Allen Boys, Music on the Porch Series

Ticketed events get going on Friday (3/18) the Artscenter, which is hosting the conference exploring steel-guitar-based Black gospel music, with strongholds in Florida and Western NC. Folklorist Stone, who has documented the genre in photographs currently on exhibition at the Artscenter, will give several lectures. On Saturday, headlining artists will give steel guitar master classes. The conference ends Sunday morning with a worship service.

The Lee Boys

Evening concert headliners include The Lee Boys and Aubrey Ghent; see The Artscenter website for details and ticket info!

Artscenter: Link to all Sacred Steel Conference events

Conference Weekend Pass Pricing Here

Indy article by Spencer Griffith: "Southern Sacred Steel Conference Debuts"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Substitutions: Bio Ritmo 3.12.11

It's 11 pm on Saturday night in downtown Richmond, and this town is getting its salsa on: Bio Ritmo is about to take the stage at Balliceaux, a restaurant near the VCU campus.

Bio Ritmo @ Balliceaux 3.12.11

Stylish and a little chaotic, this crowd has a casual, anything-goes approach to dance culture. People are here to socialize and dance to live music, not negotiate the breaking beats.

Bio Ritmo @ Balliceaux 3.12.11


Bio Ritmo
has been coping with some turnover lately. It's been breaking in new timbaleros since Giustino (Justin) Riccio went on hiatus to pursue his acoustic artrock duo Fuzzy Baby full-time. Some of the new players have been amazing, but I still miss Justin for his quirky, hardass playing and solid backing vocals.

On this gig, Cuban, D.C.-born-and-raised percussionist Rene Ibañez filled in on timbales. He plays with Sin Miedo every Thursday at Bossa in Adams Morgan. Love what Rene is doing with the solo on this fiery descarga "Sombras"; coming in on his heels are "Bobalu" Miller and Mark Ingraham locked in a heated trumpet/coronet battle, followed by Mike Montañez on congas:

NOTE: Balliceaux doesn't have stage lighting, so for best results, go to FULL SCREEN and turn up your BRIGHTNESS to max.

In the brass section, I've really been enjoying what newer members Mark Ingraham and JC Kuhl bring to the band. JC was out on another gig Saturday, so John Lilley played sax. On "Seguiras" John stepped up to the plate with sax solos in the Afrobeat section, while Eddie Prendergast supplied dubby basslines, and Mark doubled on tambourine. Mark's own band, a funk outfit called Beast Wellington, has standing gig on Wednesdays at Bogart's in Richmond.


Gabo Tomasini manages the band from Brooklyn now, where he moved a few years back; he still plays congas on NYC gigs. But in the Southeast, Hector "Coco" Barez is now the first-call conguero. The fully endorsed LP percussionist's main gig is backing Grammy-winning, Puerto Rican hiphop duo Calle 13.

On Saturday, however, it was Mike Montañez' turn to shine. Mike has filled various positions in Bio Ritmo for 7 years, but only recorded on one of their albums: the EP Salsa System. Not a bad album to be on, engineered by Fania legend Jon Fausty, and featuring the still frequently performed "Tu No Sabes," as well as the seldom-heard "Madrugador" and "Orgullo," two great salsa tunes for my money.

Bio Ritmo @ Balliceaux 3.12.11

SIGHTREADING: Setlist 3.12.11

Bio Ritmo setlist, 3.12.11


A couple songs after the break, pianist Marlysse Simmons started soloing on "Muchacho" and my spidey sense tingled. Sure enough, her solo was on fire. I missed videoing that one, but didn't make the same mistake twice. When "Atrevete" rolled around as an encore, I was in position to record:

PIANO SOLO starts at min. 3:50


The next morning, the overnighters got together at The Cookie Monster Cafe for a brunch of corned beef hash, lake trout, dumplings, pancakes and fried apples.

Back at Marlysse's home studio, I got to hear some fabulous unreleased extras: her Brazilian project Os Magrelos, an amazing Bio Ritmo arrangement of "Danny Boy," and masters for the upcoming album, La Verdad. They are considering their options for how the release will come about, but expect it in 2011.

The 45 rpm vinyl single is already out now; A-side "Dina's Mambo," a Persian-sounding instrumental using farfisa organ, named for the "mambo" in the step of Marlysse's cat, which once had a broken leg; and B-side "La Muralla," another dark salsa from long-time trombonist Toby Whitaker, with sonero Rei Alvarez' lyrics.

Bio RItmo 3.12.11

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Orquesta K'Che Premieres at Carmens

K'Che's first performance was a party to remember. That's a good thing, since the memory stick in my camera failed last night. I have no photos or video from the show, but since professional cameraman Gustavo De Los Rios was there videoing the event, I trust some interesting documentation will survive. I'll just have to rely on words.

The stage was set when I arrived, around 11 pm, as band members hunted down the last music stand they needed. "Todo listo," musical director Andres Leon told me with a smile. Organizing and rehearsing since last fall, the band exuded the kind of calm that comes from months-long preparation. Carmen's was as packed I've ever seen it, so anticipation on the dancefloor was great.

K'Che's repertoire is well-chosen and eclectic, from NG La Banda/Issac Delgado's "Necesito Una Amiga," to Ismael Rivera's spiritually deep "El Nazareno," Pete El Conde and Johnny Pacheco's tipico son classic "Catalina La O," and Grupo Niche's biting anthem "Sin Sentimiento."

Jaime Roman and Nelson Rodriguez shared vocal duties, with Jaime sounding strong on the salsa covers, including a nice salsa romantica. Meanwhile, Nelson's electric tres wasn't just there for show; he sang and played a long, tasty tres solo on "Catalina La O," taking me and my dance partner back to Salsa Carolina days. Sabroso! Nelson's more tipico style on the son, cumbia and merengue is a great foil to Jaime's smooth, romantic lead, giving the band a winning vocal combination.

I had the pleasure of meeting newcomers to the Latin scene, Channing McCullough and Matthew Parunak. Channing deployed both alto and tenor saxes; her guajeos added authenticity to the merengue. Matthew has a great trombone tone for playing Latin. The section played well, hitting a lot of tricky entrances, aided and abetted by trumpeter William Villalba; I see only great things in this brass section's future as they pick up speed.

Right from the start, you could feel that the band's rhythm section was on solid footing, thanks to the percussion tripod of Billy Marrero on timbales, Julio Correa on congas, and Pako Santiago on bongos. All three are talented multi-percussionists, but that's probably my favorite instrument to hear each one play individually. Whether they are playing at a dance-friendly mid-tempo, or exhilarating breakneck speed (like on Larry Harlow's "Señor Sereno"), the sweet trio kept its sealegs, as expected. No surprises there. The rhythm section held its own with completing members Levy Vargas, electric bass, and Andres Leon, piano/keyboards.

Playing classy, disciplined arrangements, not aimless descargas, with tasteful soloing but no overplaying, K'Che isn't trying to reinvent the wheel; but it is trying to build a smoother ride. So far, so good; I like its professional approach and elbow grease. K'Che has definitely arrived. As it continues to polish and expand its repertoire, expect this band to invigorate competition in the local salsa scene.

SIGHTREADING: A View From the Bongo Chair

In light of my camera mishap, I did pick up one souvenir to document the night--Pako's setlist. The bongocero and backing vocalist doesn't typically use charts, but with these handwritten notes, he keeps track of a lot of information like set order, coros, solos, breaks, and which bell to play.

Pako setlist side A
Bongocero's setlist, A-side

Pako Set list side B
Bongocero's setlist, B-side

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Salsa Debut: Orquesta K'Che THIS FRIDAY (3/11)

The Triangle's newest Latin dance band makes its debut this weekend: Orquesta K'Che is the brainchild of percussionist/leader Billy Marrero, and Andres Leon, pianist and musical director.

Some fresh faces, and familiar echoes from bands of yore, fill out K'Che's ranks. The band is guitar-heavy with bassist Levy Vargas (of Latin rock band Razpa) playing an electric axe, and backing vocalist Nelson Rodriguez, of long-lost son band La Sexta Clave, sporting his tres in band photos. Horns include newcomers Channing McCullough (sax) and Matthew Parunak (trombone), as well as Samecumba veteran William Villalba (trumpet). Jaime Roman (Charanga Carolina, Orquesta GarDel) sings lead, and the rhythm section includes Pako Santiago (Carnavalito, Charanga Carolina). Countries of origin represented include Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Dominican Republic.

The band's strategy for building their own niche in the salsa scene is twofold, says musical director Leon. First and foremost: they aim to be an all-purpose dance band. That means rocking the cumbia, merengue, cha cha chá, etc. AND salsa, rather than specializing in one genre. Second: by selecting classic charts to cover that no other band in the area is doing, they bring variety to the scene.

First night to catch them live is this Friday (3/11) at Carmen's Cuban Cafe in Morrisville; doors open at 10, band at 11:30, admission $10.

Facebook Event Page: Salsa Brava with Live Performance by Orquesta K'Che, Friday March 11

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

aLive Tuesdays: The Beast + Greg Humphreys 3.8.11

Chemistry, timing, and musical diversity have always contributed to the magic of The Beast, Durham's live hip hop/jazz dynamo. Now those qualities get showcased every other week at Jack Sprat, at a free live show from 9-11 pm called aLive Tuesdays with The Beast.

The Beast @ Jack Sprat 3.8.11.

What makes these evenings so much more than a live rehearsal is the way the sets are structured: the two hours are subdivided into four, gem-like sets, covering three or more genres, and featuring one invited guest.

This week began with instrumental jazz by The Beast Trio (minus Pierce). Then singer/songwriter Greg Humphreys did a solo set of his originals. Greg really kills it on the mic in a warm, intimate setting like this, expertly modulating his tone from jazz to soul to country. The full Beast convened next, doing 2 or 3 new songs. (Pierce said they are getting ready to record again this month.)

The Beast @ Jack Sprat 3.9.11

The Beast @ Jack Sprat 3.8.11

This headliner set always leads off with The Beast's "Sample of the Week," a live-composed jam based on a sample chosen by a different member of the band. This time, pianist Eric Hirsh went with a classical riff from "Venus," from Gustav Holst's orchestral suite "The Planets." Here's the beautiful, spontaneous result:

Finally, Greg joined The Beast for a closing set. Greg did this classy, witty ballad, "Must Be The Moon," already recorded with The Beast Trio, to be released on Greg's next album in 2011. Here's part of it, with a nice little piano solo by Eric:

"Must be the Moon" (Greg Humphreys/Nancy Armstrong), (c) Phrex Music BMI.

The set (and show) ended with this slamming collaborative version of Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up," which Greg often performs with his band Hobex. It featured an added rap by Pierce and a guitar solo by Greg:

So many pretty, cross-pollinated performances in one night...can't think of the last time I got so many kicks in two hours, for the price of a beer.

The Beast @ Jack Sprat 3.8.11.

The next aLive Tuesdays with The Beast will be March 22, featuring "ChamberSoul" cellist/vocalist Shana Tucker.

Photo Credit: Tiona Fuller

Shana's debut CD Shine was just released a few weeks ago, give a listen on her website.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hobex Redux + Fat Tuesday Alert

Hobex @ Pittsboro Mardi Gras

Video of Hobex from Saturday night (3/5), at the Pittsboro Mardi Gras Festival at Chatham Mill:

Peter Holsapple (organ), Cyril Lance (guitar), Andy Ware (bass), Rob Ladd (drums), Tim Smith (sax), and frontman Greg Humphreys (vocals, guitar). Greg had his table steel standing by, but did not deploy. Still it was a grand and festive evening. Some of my favorite Hobex originals, a tune from Greg's recent solo release, and some zydeco and soul covers kept the costumed pirates and merrymakers of Chatham County dancing.

Hobex, Pittsboro Mardi Gras 3.5.11


See Greg Humphreys tonight (3/8) at 9-11 pm @ Jack Sprat as a special guest at The Beast's "aLive Tuesdays." Raaaawwwwr!

4 short sets:
1) jazz set with The Beast Trio (Eric Hirsh, Peter Kimosh, Stephen Coffman)
2) solo acoustic set with Greg Humphreys
3) hip hop set with full cast of The Beast
4) The Beast + Greg Humphreys as special guest.

Hobex in Pittsboro 3.5.11