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.).
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.
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.
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.