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...

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Makes You Wanna Holler!

Posted on Nov 16, 2010

I have been busy dealing with changes in my work place as I continue to work as Music Director for KPFA in Berkeley. KPFA is the oldest listener sponsored public radio station in the U.S.. However, KPFA is one of the most complicated and dysfunctional media outlets with a history of internal politics, conflicts and never ending drama. Currently, there is a serious financial crisis with both KPFA and it’s parent network Pacifica. This valued resource of left thinking alternative media has been around for 61 years but now is broke due to a toxic combination of mismanagement, over spending, a difficult “democratic” governance structure and a bleeding network. There are major disagreements between paid staff running the station, the unpaid programming staff and network management over the recent firing of the entire Morning Show staff. Network management has been criticized over the timing of the firings and the lack of public disclosure of a plan B to replace the program which is the station’s most successful fund raiser. That controversy has led to a public relations disaster which is alienating loyal listeners. Add to that situation, dwindling resources and lack of money supporting KPFA’s original model of a listener sponsored station without commercials and underwriting that has led to never ending fund drives and shrinking audiences. KPFA interim management had to cancel the station’s upcoming fund drive scheduled for this week. The network is being accused of attempted union busting due to the political nature of the firings while the executive director claims that she is following union protocol honoring seniority of staff. The diverse and divisive opinions from internal waring factions from the paid staff to the non fund raising local station board fly all over the place as the painful layoffs and reduction of hours of staff continue. Seven key people have taken voluntary layoffs. It is a situation that is sad, absurd, challenging and puzzling at the same time. In spite of this morale busting environment, I am continuing in my now part time job and hosting my weekly program “Con Sabor” with the goal of producing good radio in this chaotic time. Other fellow music programmers are doing the same because the station deserves to exist and get support. I’m doing a lot of soul searching as I’m contemplating things in my life right now. Life tests you from time to time to see what you are made of and what choices you need to make to survive and move forward. To be...

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Busy Busy Busy…calendar item

Posted on Oct 25, 2010

This has been one busy month! Maintaining ones blog is a discipline in my world. I am juggling like many parents out there. Working gigs and the regular job, dealing with your family, taking care of obligations, networking, preparing radio programs, planning for the future..and the list goes on and on. I’m back..ready with new things to share with you.

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The Legendary Jelly’s Dance Cafe – RIP

Posted on Oct 10, 2010

A San Francisco salsa lover’s institution, Jelly’s Dance Cafe at Pier 50 closed its doors last week but not without a final party blowout which featured Julio Bravo Y Salsabor, DJ Walt Digz and myself on the wheels of steel. It was beyond packed both inside and outside…I estimated that more than 600 people must have gone in and out of the venue during the evening. Since I have been a resident DJ on Club Havana Sundays for more than a decade, I recall some of the great musicians who sat in with bands at the club: Herman Olivera, Omar Sosa, Giovanni Hidalgo, Modesto Cepeda, Johnny Polanco, Pepito Gomez, Danny Lozada and La Palabra among others. In the early days, it was Louie Romero’s Mazacote and Anthony Blea’s Charanson who were the house bands. I rotated with Ivette “La Coqui” Fuentes as the house dj’s for years mixing it up with salsa dura y clasica, timba, mambo and more. Ivette left a few years ago and DJ’s Walt Digz and Antonio were added to the rotation. It was a delight to DJ at Jelly’s because we always tried to match or surpass the energy of the band and vice versa so the level of music created at the club was always top notch. The special communication between the band, djs, dancers and audience was unique among salsa clubs in the area and it didn’t matter that Jelly’s wasn’t a luxurious club or offered dance lessons (it never did!). What mattered to the dancers, faithful patrons, visitors, musicians and dj’s at Jelly’s was only the music! Even though new Sunday venues are popping up to fill the void, Jelly’s unique vibe will be sorely...

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