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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Isti & the Mysti Experience; Mysti Mayhem TONIGHT (8/9) @ The Cave

Isti Kaldor @ Six Plates

My friend Isti Kaldor did a new painting on Friday night, at the trendy, rococo-themed wine bar Six Plates in Durham. Mysti Mayhem, a soulful singer/songwriter with a powerful voice, played guitar and sang.

Isti & Mysti @ Six Plates

Let me explain. Isti only paints to live music, in front of a live audience. His bio and artist statement can be found here, on his website. His paintings capture an evanescent moment, in which we are all involved.

Isti & Mysti @ Six  Plates

This became literally true that night, as some of the avatar-blue paint Isti loaded in hefty dollops onto the canvas mysteriously spread itself around the room, via hugs, handshakes and kisses perhaps, transferred from skin to black marble countertops, to the insides of elbows, under chins, and onto cheeks. I unwittingly imprinted myself in this manner, hilariously so. A tactful barman pointed this out as I sipped samples of their xtakoli and cidre.

Luckily, a little soap, hot water, and scrubbing with the red, cloth handtowels provided in the ladies' bathroom, removed all the physical paint from my skin and possessions. But it was a tangible reminder that one doesn't so much watch Isti create, as become implicated in an infectious act of group creation. I love what this says about art, and the way it pulls the isolated visual artist into a communal relationship with music and with an audience.

Isti & Mysti @ Six  Plates

Isti & Mysti @ Six Plates

Isti & Mysti @ Six Plates

I didn't take video, but you can hear Mayhem's music and see her calendar here. She performs again TONIGHT, Tuesday, August 9, at The Cave, 9 pm, opening for Jordan & The Sphinx. The cover is $5.

Isti Kaldor @ Six Plates


Isti Kaldor artist website

Mysti Mayhem artist website

Isti Kaldor @ Six Plates
Completed canvas by Isti Kaldor, up for raffle.

Isti Kaldor @ Six Plates

Monday, August 8, 2011

Griselle Ponce, Orquesta GarDel @ COPA NIGHT Aug 13

"Mambo princess" Griselle Ponce will give a dance performance and workshop in the Triangle on Saturday, August 13. That evening's Copa Night party, hosted by the Cobo Brothers at Mint Restaurant in Raleigh, features live music by the Triangle's elite salsa orchestra, Orquesta GarDel.

Note: The dress theme for the party is no longer "Black and White," as originally advertised, but a dress code of NO JEANS or athletic wear still applies. Please consult the web for full details.

Ms. Ponce, who frequently partners with mambo legend Eddie Torres, will offer a Ladies Styling workshop at the Triangle Dance Studio on Saturday afternoon. Limited advance and package discounts are being offered on the Cobo Brothers' webpage.

GarDel, 12.11.10
Orquesta GarDel @ Mint in December, 2010


Cobo Brothers event webpage (for tickets and information)
Facebook Event page
Griselle Ponce artist webpage
Orquesta GarDel artist webpage

Tercer Divisa Nacional @ Ritmo Latino Fest

Raleigh rockeros Tercer Divisa Nacional had a lonely 12:30 spot atop the program at Cary's Festival Ritmo Latino this year. Nonetheless, they rocked it out for the first few festival goers huddled in the heat at the Sertoma bandshell in Bond Park.

Tercer Divisa Nacional

Tercer Divisa Nacional

Now a quartet, Tercer Divisa Nacional has changed its membership in recent times, but not its m.o.: politically conscious, blues and metal-influenced, Mexico City-style rock. They label themselves "rock 'n' roll urbano," a reference to the Distrito Federal origins of half its members, but "rock en español" also fits--depending on what that says to you. The band follows much more in the tradition of nationally known Mexican rock bands like Maldita Vecindad and El Tri, rather than the internationalized pop sounds of a Juanes or a Carlos Santana.

Tercer Divisa Nacional

Tercer Divisa Nacional

So what's new? As recently as 2009, the band had swollen to 7 members, all male. Now, its four-member core is halfsies damas y caballeros. That's no coincidence: Cyndra, a trained jazz singer, is married to drummer and co-founder Luis "El Italiano," while bassist/ co-founder David is romantic partners with lead guitarist Meagan. While they are all flamboyant salsa dancers in the street-flavored DF style (which one rarely sees anymore amid the flush of mambo and rueda schools), you won't hear any of that in Divisa Nacional; what they play is more like a form of immigration blues, empowered by joyous rock energy.

I had something else to do midday, but arrived back at the festival around 6ish see what headliner Tropic Orchestra has been up to these days. There have been some changes to the lineup; "new" was Cesar Oviedo on piano, Cesar Cordero on congas, and Abdala Saghir on timbales. The repertoire was pretty much unchanged; there was a merengue I don't recall hearing before (but might have), and a 'stone soup' cha cha chá, throwing together progressions and coros from a bunch of familiar danzones and boogaloos. Their usual salsa standards included "Rebelion," "La Murga," and "Todo Tieno Su Final." There was an initial delay for soundcheck, pushing the dance over until 7 pm; the PA system was a bit loud and distorting, but salsa dancers had their usual good time.

Tropic Orchestra
Tropic Orchestra

Check out these adorable little kids, dressed up and ready to perform with one of the folkloric dance ensembles at the Festival. Preciosura!

Ritmo Latino 2011

Ritmo Latino 2011

Ritmo Latino 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ritmo Latino Fest in Cary TODAY (8/7)

From 12 noon - 6:30pm this Sunday (8/7), Diamante's 7th annual Festival Ritmo Latino comes to Bond Park, 801 High House Road in Cary. Rain or shine, the festival is FREE and open to the public:

Here are times and highlights from the Main Stage music lineup in Sertoma Amphitheatre:
12:30 - 1:30 Tercer Divisa Nacional (rock & roll urbano)
2:00 - 3:00 Mickey Mills & Steel (reggae)
4:00 - 5:00 La Tropa de Tierra Caliente (regional mex)
5:30 - 6:30 Tropic Orchestra (salsa)
The "Ritmo Lounge" will feature various folkloric dance groups, the Christian rock band Sin Reservas at 3 pm, and Franco Gallardo Mariachi at 5 pm. Other attractions include food vendors, an opening ceremony and color guard, and children's activities. A free kids' soccer clinic with the Carolina Railhawks takes place from 2 - 4 pm.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Everybody loves mariachis!

I love this video of Mariachi Connecticut serenading a beluga whale at Mystic Marinelife Aquarium. The whale obviously enjoys the performance. Who wouldn't?