By Ian S. Port
By Cory Sklar
By Godofredo Vasquez
By Gil Riego Jr.
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Christopher Victorio
By Ian S. Port
The enthusiastic response to the jazz-informed dub of Echo Springsled Finkbeiner and Fletcher to form a live band version of Guerilla Hi-Fi. The eight-piece collective boasts a three-piece horn section and two drummers, and features Fletcher adding live mixing effects to give the group's sound the kind of authentic vibe that dub maestros the Scientist and the Mad Professor bring to their reverb-heavy concert odysseys with their respective bands. Though Guerilla Hi-Fi has yet to find an outlet for its sophomore effort, Redevelopment, the compelling experimental material and guest spots by noted reggae drummer Wadi Gad and talented turntablist DJ Zeph should convince some sensible label that the group deserves backing.
With the high concentration of Latino people and cultures in the Bay Area, it's little surprise that musicians playing everything from salsa to Mexican and South American folk to polyrhythmic Afro-Cuban jazz can easily reach an enthusiastic, ready-made audience locally. Founded in 2001, Palenque has filled a particular niche in the region by providing Cuban music fans regular doses of son montuno, the modern precursor to salsa created by Arsenio Rodriguez during the '30s and recently repopularized by the rise of the Buena Vista Social Club. Bandleader and principal composer German Donatien studied at the National School of Music in Havana before starting a career as a professional singer that featured stints with the chorus of the Cuban National TV and Radio Orchestra, nightclub work at Havana's famed Cabaret Tropicana, and membership in the Cuban National Opera. Relocating to the United States in 1996, Donatien put his remarkable voice and fluid guitar style to good use with a number of groups playing son montuno before finally starting his own band. Palenque draws its other members from the Bay Area's fertile Latin and jazz scenes, giving the group an appropriately multicultural lineup that includes classical flute player Chloe Scott, well-traveled drummer Ben Krews, former jazz students Markus Puhvel (tres guitar) and Steve Parkin (bass), and Mission District-raised percussionist Norman Downing. Palenque recently self-released its debut album, Soy Montuno, a scintillating collection of lyrical Donatien originals, and continues to build a base of loyal fans with its lively regular appearances all over the Bay Area, including at popular venues like Ashkenaz and Yoshi's.
John Santos is one of the best-known proponents of Afro-Latin music in the Bay Area, if not the world. Over the past 30 years, the 58-year-old percussionist has performed or recorded with a huge number of important world music and jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Max Roach, Cal Tjader, Charlie Hunter, Linda Tillery, Omar Sosa, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Lalo Schifrin, and Yma Sumac. At the same time, he's served as director of the Orquesta Tipica Cienfuegos (from 1976 to 1980) and the Orquesta Batachanga (from 1981 to 1985), and currently directs the Machete Ensemble, a local Latin jazz band of world renown. Born in San Francisco in 1955 and raised by Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean parents, Santos has become one of the top historians in his field, serving as a member of the Latin Jazz Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution and writing for such magazines as Modern Drummer and Latin Percussionist. Perhaps his best contribution to the Afro-Latin music scene, however, has been through his own recordings. Over a half-dozen albums -- both solo and with the Machete Ensemble -- Santos has explored the use of traditional forms and instruments within a modern context. His compositions cross all stylistic boundaries, offering mambos, jazz rumbas, folkloric odes, Afro-Caribbean swing, and more. His latest effort, John Santos & El Coro Folklorico Kindembo's Para Ellos, features traditional numbers from the Yoruba and Kongo nations, both of which helped inform Cuba's musical legacy. As always, Santos does more than proffer multiculti tunes -- he transforms them into something greater.
Led by trumpeter Ara Anderson, Boostamonte began as a quirky quartet around the turn of the new millennium with two trumpets, a drummer, and (what else?) a tuba player. When Jon Birdsong, the tuba player (tubist?), cut out to tour with Beck in 2001, Anderson took the opportunity to go large, bringing on a string bass to replace the tuba and adding two trombones and two saxophones. The band has stuck with that instrumentation ever since.
Brash, bold, and shaking, Boostamonte stands as a vibrating pillar in the foundation of the San Francisco funk/jazz scene. The group's influences are wide, deep, and off the wall, as evidenced by groove-based numbers like "Dr. Dre Meets Thelonious Funk Monk." The band currently boasts a powerhouse lineup of local jazz talent, including, along with Anderson, Henry Hung (trumpet), Joe Cohen (alto saxophone), Colin Stetson (baritone saxophone), Adam Theis (trombone), Joel Behrman (trombone), Eric Perney (upright bass), and Ches Smith (drums). And while Boostamonte's performances are relatively infrequent, they are raucous affairs. A driving rhythm section, outstanding compositions and horn arrangements, and the melding of six of the hottest horn soloists in town never fails heat up any room the band fills.
Like all of Boostamonte's members, leader Anderson is an accomplished and busy musician outside of his prime gig. He's worked with everyone from Jonathan Richman to Jolie Holland to the New Pickle Circus, and he played on the recent Tom Waits releases Blood Money and Alice.
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