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Latin Fever

[whitespace] Conjunto Cespedes
Son and Light: Conjunto Céspedes specializes in Afro-Cuban dance forms.

The big names in Bay Area Latin music converge on the America Festival

By Nicky Baxter

THOUGH THE MUSIC has long been a mainstay in the South Bay, rarely have we seen the likes of Latin Music Festival (July 3 as part of the Friday Night Dance Party at the America Festival in downtown San Jose). Poncho Sanchez, Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeño Band, Conjunto Céspedes and the Machete Ensemble with John Santos will appear on a program co-sponsored by Giant Arts and Entertainment and the Emergency Housing Consortium. All proceeds from the festival will go toward financing the consortium's community-oriented programs.

Salsa multi-instrumentalist Poncho Sanchez (8:45pm) has been a dominating figure on the Latin music scene for more than a decade. Unlike all too many other players forced to flit from label to label, Sanchez has issued the bulk of his work on Concord's Picante insignia. While Sanchez has recorded with improvisational-music purveyors like Freddie Hubbard and the Jazz Crusaders (Freedom Sound), he is perhaps best known as a congo player and bandleader. His knack for hyper-tempo arrangements has always served him well. Listen to his revision of Eddie Palmieri's "Cuidate Compai" (La Familia) or "Con Migo" (Chile con Soul).

On the party/politics front, no one does it better than Dr. Loco (6:15pm). Don't be fooled by the midnight-black shades; Dr. Loco (José Cuellar) is far from just another homeboy on the party set. Yes, it's true that his band has been a local favorite for a number of years, kicking salsa caliente, Tex-Mex boot-stomp and classic oldies, but the doc is also a serious music fan--an ethnomusicologist, in fact. Put simply, Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeño band can play and converse on the subject with equal facility. In addition to the unit's mestizo pop, the Jalapeños are also expert facilitators of Norteño and Mexicano peasant music.

Conjunto Céspedes (7:30pm) is arguably the Bay Area's leading purveyor of the African/Cuban musical genre known as son. The form is based in Nigeria's Yoruban secular folklore. The 11-piece unit's incorporation of religious and nonreligious forms, using a big-band sound, has made it one of African/Cuban music's most unusual ensembles. The group released its first album in 1984; later in the decade, Conjunto Céspedes was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation to set the poetry of famed Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén to music. The Machete Ensemble (5pm), too, is fascinated by Yoruban and other African-based musical forms. Bandleader John Santos and his associates take a more cerebral angle; the band often puts on workshops and seminars. The group has a number of albums out, including Machetazo!--Ten Years on the Edge.

The Friday Night Dance Party takes place Friday (July 3), starting at 5pm, on the Lawn Stage at the Discovery Meadow in Guadalupe River Park, San Jose. Admission is $5adv./$7dr. (BASS)

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From the July 2-8, 1998 issue of Metro.

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