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Directamente de Cuba!

With all the Cuban music in the air last Tuesday, you (and I'm speaking directly to the readers who were abducted by Cuban revolutionaries and then drugged, blindfolded and flown around in an airplane for eight hours before being unceremoniously dumped outside of the Kuumbwa, where the sounds of flutes, violins and cha-cha-cha rhythms of Orquesta Aragon were spilling out into the street, which I admit is probably a small number of you, but still) may have thought for just a moment that you were in fact walking the streets of Cuba. It must be my lucky life, or maybe I spent a past life nursing lepers and the elderly, because I sure as shit haven't done anything in this life to deserve the privilege to attend both Orquesta Aragon and the Afro-Cuban All Stars at the Civic.

I started at the Kuumbwa, where I was immediately greeted by the mouth-watering smell of Chicken and Rice Cooked Cuban-Style. Orquesta Aragon filled the small stage with players, 13 in all. They were much smaller in person, looking downright cute up there in their long-sleeved black button-down shirts. Even The Sound Guy wore the uniform and sang into his microphone from the soundboard.

As for the music, I was immediately struck by the prominence of the flute and strings in their songs, and the utter lack of brass. The resulting blend of cha-cha-cha, son montuno and danzon felt impossibly happy and whimsical. The players' smiles were infectious, spreading around the room from face to face and then throughout the body, causing the standing-room-only contingent to move in time to the romantic melodies and subtly propulsive rhythms.

Then I floated over to the Civic on A Cloud of Cuban Fancy, taking my seat in The stratosphere of the Civic. I had a perfect view of the dance floor in the back, which quickly filled up with twirling salsa dancers of varying abilities. The All Stars jumped right into their set, which started out with a pleasantly energetic number that was nevertheless alarmingly quiet. Thankfully, the volume increased as the All Stars turned up the heat. Flashy and with a knack for showmanship unrivaled on any cruise ship, bandleader Juan De Marco González introduced the players and soloists with praise and class, slowing things down and then speeding them up again like any good DJ should. The singers proceeded to ham it up with the crowd, running down the aisles and dancing with the ladies, much to the delight of the audience. Finally, with the crowd at a fever pitch, González exhorted the seated portions of the audience to get up and dance. The whole Civic sprang to its feet and danced, waving arms in unison, summoning the spirit of Santeria to bless every last Cruzer lucky enough to make it out to the show. Bravo to UCSC Arts & Lectures, who closed out a fine season with a truly spectacular show!

Mike Connor

The Cosby Show

I love me some Huxtables. So much so that I will even go see them at the Teen Center, where, in some kind of Crazy Backwards-Universe kind of thing, they ask you at the door if you're 21 and then turn you away if you are. What is this, Logan's Run? No, I'm kidding, I think it's pretty cool that such a place exists, and through the magic of a special over-21 list, I did get to see SC's most hyperkinetic band Friday night. What to say except they rock, and it's a relief to see them back at a time when the local scene needs their energy, wit and irreverence--can a crossover bill featuring the Hux and The Moonies be far behind?

The crowd was rockin' out and singing along to old favorites like "Loser's Night Out," "Around" and "Dungeon Master." And the newest song, Kleptomanicac," straight-up kicks ass in classic Hux style.

What Can Brown Do For You?

When is UPS going to realize that ad campaign is making us all snicker uncontrollably? Were they never in second grade? Did they not get the "Number Two" joke in Austin Powers? Anyway, the real power of Brown was working for Santa Cruz on Mother's Day, when Greg Brown brought his deep, hushed folk tones to the Rio. Betcha mom enjoyed those lusty, crazy-from-the-heat songs of his like "Think About You." But "I Want Me Country Back" was the key moment when he said what was, I think, on a lot of minds in the audience. And I always love his scat singing. Hey, maybe UPS could use it in a commercial!

Steve Palopoli

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From the May 14-21, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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