A Trio Of Riches/Un Trio De Riquezas

Posted on Nov 23, 2010

During the past few weeks, I was fortunate enough to see a trio of great shows with the likes of Lila Downs, Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Concha Buika. All unique and distinctive. I hosted the Lila Downs show at the SF Jazz Festival representing KPFA radio. Lila proved why she is one of the great performers today as she radiated warmth, her exuberance as a show and dance pro and showcased that elastic, sensational voice. Her repertoire ranged from traditional torch style rancheras to latin-tinged world pop. Her songs touched the hearts of the audience and she was rewarded by thunderous applause and standing ovations. The Spanish Harlem Orchestra slammed no nonsense hard-hitting salsa dura at Yoshi’s. Led by pianist/musical director Oscar Hernandez, the orchestra shined with a set of new material drawn from their latest cd “Viva La Tradicion” peppered with a few choice nuggets from earlier recordings. Apart from being an instrumental powerhouse, the orchestra is blessed to have a trio of great vocalists such as Ray De La Paz, Marco Bermudez and newcomer Carlos Castante (also a fine songwriter). One of the finest salsa dance orchestras in the world today. Concha Buika’s first Bay Area appearance was a highly anticipated date due to her great recordings including her latest with Chucho Valdes “El Ultimo Trago”. She did not disappoint…what an original artist in terms of her unorthodox approach, her devastating wit and an dramatic voice which is both powerful and emotive. She is not your traditional flamenco singer at all-she skillfully blends jazz, afro-cuban melodies and flamenco to forge a new category of music. Her band included the phenomenal pianist Melon who contributed fiery solos that propelled her trio. At the end of her encore, she was alone on the stage performing an acapella version of the traditional Spanish copla “Ojos Verdes” which was both unforgettable and spellbinding.