Tjader’s Cuban Fantasy

Here’s some mokin’ hot latin jazz from a virtuoso of the vibes, Cal Tjader. I wasn’t familiar with Tjader until I heard his live Cuban Fantasy album sometime last year, but the man was a vital component of the Bay Area jazz scene in the 50’s and 60’s, starting out in the Dave Brubeck Octet.

Hooking up with George Shearing’s popular quintet in the early 50’s, coupled with the mambo craze of that time, turned Tjader on to the Latin jazz sound, which he would perform straight through to his death in 1982. Carlos Santana counts Tjader as one of his biggest influences.

I’m no jazz aficionado, but this album, like I said, smokes. Here’s a hot one…

Cal TjaderGuachi Guara (mp3)


Buy Cuban Fantasy

Cal Tjader’s AllMusic profile.

Review: In Tucson with David Hidalgo and Louie Perez

This past Sunday, I jumped on I-10 East and headed down to Tucson for a Dave & Louie show. Dave & Louie being David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, two members (and the main songwriters) of Los Lobos. The atmosphere and show format could not have been cooler: two 45 minute sets of music followed by a Q&A session – where audience members could step to the microphone and ask questions. Did I step to the mic? But of course! More on that later.

Sunday’s Tucson show was the final stop on a short seven city tour of the West, celebrating almost 40 years of writing songs together.

Review: Los Lobos at the Mesa Arts Center

Eleven years had passed since I last saw Los Lobos (1996 at the Electric Ballroom in Tempe). But like fine wine, time only makes them better and intensifies the experience. A gray bearded David Hidalgo and his band mates of thirty plus years took the stage Saturday night at the beautiful, 2-year old Ikeda Theater at the Mesa Arts Center. For the next two hours, the band took us on a journey that clearly showed why they remain one of the tightest, most eclectic bands out there today. It also reminded me how grossly underrated these living legends are. A freakin’ travesty, to be honest.

Upcoming Shows – Los Lobos

Seeing Los Lobos live should be on the Lifetime To-Do List of every music lover out there. Well into their fourth decade of making music together, with the same core lineup of friends / musicians since their start in East L.A. – David Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas, Louie Perez, Steve Berlin, and Conrad Lozano – these guys are as talented, tight, and dynamic as ever. They dip into several genres: blues, roots, latin, folk, traditional Mexican, and others. And if you haven’t heard their take on the Dead’s “Bertha”, you’re cheating only yourself, my friend.

Los Lobos – Bertha (mp3)

Los Lobos is kicking off a tour on Friday night at Royce Hall at UCLA. Saturday night, they’ll be at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, CA. I’ll be catching them in a couple of weeks at the Mesa Arts Center in my neck of the woods (I’ll have a review up soon after).

Check out the tour dates, and go check out these legends when they come to your area. That’s an order. You’ll thank me.

Another Los Lobos classic…

Los Lobos – I Got Loaded (mp3)

Links: Los Lobos Official Site | Los Lobos on LastFM | Hear their version of Bob Dylan’s “Billy 1” from the I’m Not There soundtrack (LastFM)

Buy: Amazon MP3 Store | Los Lobos

Tour Dates
02.01.08 – Friday – Royce Hall, UCLA – Los Angeles, CA
02.02.08 – Saturday – Belly Up Tavern – Solana Beach, CA
02.15.08 – Friday – Abraham Chavez Theater – El Paso, TX
02.16.08 – Saturday – Ikeda Theater – Mesa, AZ
03.05.08 – Wednesday – Ithaca State Theatre – Ithaca, NY
03.06.08 – Thursday – McCarter Theater – Princeton, NJ
03.07.08 – Friday – William Patterson University – Wayne, NJ
03.08.08 – Saturday – Shubert Theater – New Haven, CT (Michael, represent!)
03.09.08 – Sunday – Strom Auditorium – Rockport, ME
03.11.08 – Tuesday – The Ridgefield Playhouse – Ridgefield, CT
03.12.08 – Wednesday – Birchmere – Alexandria, VA
03.13.08 – Thursday – The Grand Opera House – Wilmington, DE
03.14.08 – Friday – Lehigh University / Zoellner Arts Ctr Bethlehem, PA
03.15.08 – Saturday – Bardavon 1869 Opera House – Poughkeepsie, NY
03.16.08 – Sunday – Calvin Theatre – Northampton, MA
03.21.08 – Friday – Columbus Palace Theatre – Columbus, OH
03.25.08 – Tuesday – Burton Cummings Theatre – Winnipeg, Manitoba CANADA
03.27.08 – Thursday – Jack Singer Concert Hall – Calgary, Alberta CANADA
03.28.08 – Friday – Northern Alberta Jubilee Aud. – Edmonton, Alberta CANADA
03.29.08 – Saturday – Bowness Hall – Calgary, Alberta CANADA
03.30.08 – Sunday – Eric Harvie Theatre – Banff, Alberta CANADA
04.01.08 – Tuesday – Vancouver Centre For The Arts – Vancouver, B.C. CANADA
04.02.08 – Wednesday – Royal Theatre – Victoria, B.C. CANADA

Check out their tour page for more dates extending into the summer.

Los Lobos – Be Still

A majestic Los Lobos tune. One of those songs where I picture the singer (David Hidalgo in this case) standing atop a high hill, tall green meadow grasses all around, looking over the Pacific Ocean sunset. Love the way the intro transitions into the great lyrics. Inspiring…

Los LobosBe Still (mp3) – from this amazing box set: El Cancionero: Mas y Mas

Be Still
(David Hidalgo/Louie Pérez)

Let the calm, calm blue waters through
Wash your soul, passing right through you
Like the smallest rose out of the hardest ground
Like a tiny hand reaching up for the sun.
Let us pray that our hearts are one
The toughest love is the strongest one
Like a crippled man fights his bitter pain
On two tired legs that hope to walk once again
Stay gold and be still.

As we grow, a river flows
Through our hearts
Finding peace wherev’r it may go

Let the pure, pure blue waters through
Don’t let the wind take ’em away from you,
like the littlest star shines in the darkest night
Like a mother’s egg brings in a new life
Stay gold and be still
Pray that we all can stay gold and be still.

Prince y Grupo Fantasma

Prince with Grupo Fantasma
AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill

This past weekend in Pasadena, the National Council of La Raza’s ALMA Awards took place. Our very active little purple man was there, performing with 11-man Latin juggernaut Grupo Fantasma from Austin, Texas. Things seems to be falling into place for GF. They played with Prince at a Golden Globes aftershow party earlier this year, and had a weekday gig at Prince’s 3121 Club at the Rio in Vegas. This past weekend, not only did they back up Prince at the awards show, and play an aftershow with him in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, but Prince also flew down to Austin to join them at a private party. There’s money well spent. Pay for Grupo Fantasma and get Prince thrown in for free? Not a bad deal.

I’m trying to figure out why Prince is crossing the country at the last minute to play with an 11-man Latin band. I’m convinced that he’s banging one of their sisters or cousins. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Prince will move mountains for a little poonanny! I mean, didn’t he spend like 6 months in a studio with Kim Basinger convincing her she could sing?

The ALMA Awards will air Tuesday night on ABC at 8pm East / 7 Central (check your local listings, yada yada).

Grupo FantasmaSaca la Basura (mp3) – from Comes Alive

Grupo Fantasma’s Official Site | MySpace

grupo fantasma

Airto and Flora in Telluride


I just returned from a much needed vacation in one of the most beautiful spots on earth: Telluride, Colorado. That pic above is the view from my parents’ place. Not bad, eh? I timed my trip to coincide with the Telluride Jazz Celebration; three days of fun in the sun rain featuring Herbie Hancock, Soulive, Terence Blanchard, Ernie Watts, and Regina Carter, among many others. Of those others were the guests of honor, Brazilian jazz legends, percussionist Airto Moreira and his wife, singer Flora Purim.

airto and flora

Airto met Flora in Rio de Janeiro in 1965. A couple years later, he followed her to New York City, where he met up with bassist Walter Booker, who introduced Airto to jazz greats like Cannonball Adderly, Lee Morgan, Paul Desmond, and Joe Zawinul. It was Zawinul who recommended Airto to Miles Davis for the Bitches Brew sessions in 1970. Airto and Zawinul also went on to form Weather Report with Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vitous, and Alphonse Mouzon.


Watching Airto over the weekend was something to behold. I was a volunteer stagehand for the festival, and helped Airto and his band (Eyedentity) set up for a late night gig at the Telluride Conference Center. The man does absolutely amazing things with an assortment of latin percussion instruments, including his voice. Just really cool stuff. One of the songs that really hit me hard was “Tombo in 7/4”, an Airto original that really lets loose with the percussion. Every band member had percussion in hand, and away they went. The version here is a little faster paced than what I heard in Telluride. It’s one of those songs in which it’s humanly impossible to sit still (which I did see some people doing – they must have been dead).

Airto Moreira: Tombo in 7/4 (mp3)

Bonus: Miles Davis (with Airto on percussion): Sivad (mp3) – from Live/Evil

Sunday Grab Bag 2

Another random sampling of some music I’ve been particularly enjoying of late.

Though a ton of artists have recorded this Boudleaux Bryant classic, I first heard Nazareth’s version as a kid, then the Everly Brothers (who did the original in 1961). It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally heard Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris do things to it that make me quite content to never hear another’s version again.

Gram Parsons w/ Emmylou Harris: Love Hurts (mp3) from Grievous Angel (1973)

A Cuban friend at work was kind enough to turn me on to legendary conguero Carlos “Patato” Valdes, thought by many to be the greatest Cuban conga player. This one comes from ‘The Legend of Cuban Percussion’, a 2000 release. With a flute, piano, bass, and Patato on the congas, it is most definitely headphone worthy.

Carlos “Patato” Valdes: Luz (mp3)

Laswell’s Rhythmic Stew

Tonight it’s all about atmospherics. I only own one Bill Laswell album: ‘Imaginary Cuba’. On top of that, Nick from Jazz and Conversation posted a great sample / podcast of his work a while back. So obviously I need to get on the ball and pick up some more of his stuff. From what I’ve heard, the man knows how to set a mood, and lay down some gorgeous and enchanting rhythms. You can find out all about the man at his All Music bio.

For my little mini podcast / sample, I’ve put together the three “Habana Transmission” tracks that are spread throughout ‘Imaginary Cuba’. Like one review of the album says, what you’re hearing is a “rhythmic stew… complex and often dub-inflected sound collages that sound like no one but Laswell while still maintaining respect for the music’s origins.” So here you are, and – let it be noted – this is most definitely headphone-worthy.

Bill Laswell: Habana Transmission #1 / Avisale a la Vecina Dub | Habana Transmission #2 / Cuban Evolution | Habana Transmission #3 / Shango Sound Scan (mp3)