Thursday, July 30, 2009

Afro Cuban All Stars & Los Van Van - 07/12/2009

The fiesta cubana that closed the 30th anniversary of the Jazz Fest was a case study in the contrasts of Cuban music. The All Stars, led by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, are rooted in the big band tradition of Afro-Cuban son and Latin jazz, with bold brass, an impeccable rhythm section, fantastic soneros, and killer soloists. Pianist Gabriel Hernandez was a marvel, holding down rock solid montunos, turning in great solos and a beautiful piano introduction to "Guajira." The harmony vocals on "Chan Chan" were pristine, and each of the soneros came down to the platform below the stage to interact more closely with the crowd.

Los Van Van's showcased their funkier timba, with a dense blend of violins, trombone, sax and synthesizers. They performed a solid cover of "Birdland," so seamlessly integrated into their sound that it took me a while to clue into the tune. Adding to the Michael Jackson tributes throughout the festival, the horn line from "Shake Your Body Down to the Ground" made an appearance, as did the "Hey Jude" singalong. I've been meaning to check out Van Van more deeply for a long time, and this show, as well as their midnight set at L'Astral, provided a solid catalyst.

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