Tuesday, March 18, 2014


The great Spanish flamenco guitarist Tomatito brought his excellent ensemble to SF's Palace Of Fine Arts.  Tomatito (Jose Fernandez Torres), considered by many as the heir apparent to the late Paco De Lucia, made a strong case for himself with a beautiful show which showcased his flawless virtuosity.  His attack and command of the guitar was brilliant as he took the audience on a musical journey shifting moods from traditional bulerias to jazz.  He was the epitome of cool as he sat with the guitar on his lap, legs crossed and playing what seemed like endless streams of notes.  He was supported by his excellent ensemble which was made up of young budding guitarists El Cristi and Jose del Tomate, a duo of astonishing vocalists Kiki Cortinas and Simon Roman, the dynamic featured dancer Paloma Fantova and tasteful percussionist Moises Santiago.  The sold out crowd was treated to flamenco at it's best with a well paced show featuring this stellar ensemble playing the music of Tomatito.  It was also a dazzling feast for the eyes when Paloma was featured on a dance solo during the closing song framed by Tomatito's guitar.  Her feet were a blur displaying incredible speed while her facial expressions and graceful hand movements showed her powerful attitude and passion.  This was Tomatito's first visit to the SF Bay Area and the enthusiastic crowd responded with standing ovations.  It was a show to remember.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

One of my old guitar heroes - Mike Bloomfield

There has been a lot of attention is finally being focused on the under appreciated guitar phenomenon Michael Bloomfield who died way too young at age 37 by drug overdose in 1981.  Bloomfield whose brilliant long fiery fluid solos were an essential part of recordings by Bob Dylan, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag and his collaborations with keyboardist/vocalist Al Kooper, never got his due until now.  The release of a new 3 cd, 1 dvd box set "From His Head To His Heart To His Hands" curated by old friend Kooper is changing all of that by pointing attention to his short prolific career.  Bloomfield who shared friendships and stages with Chicago's blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf was a stunning guitarist in person.  I had the luck in my teenage years to see Bloomfield perform live several times in different settings with The Electric Flag and the Bloomfield-Nafatlin Band.  I also saw him play at one of my last Mission High School assemblies!   I was always struck by his fiery virtuosity, intensity and brilliant fluid technique that he displayed on his trademark Les Paul standard guitar.  He was simply one of the finest blues guitar stylists I've ever seen!  Now the world is catching up and giving respect to one of the 1960's-70's all time guitar heroes...about time!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Goodbye Paco/Adios Maestro

I caught the news on Facebook today..it was confirmed on the web...the maestro of flamenco guitar...the legendary Paco De Lucia died today.  Memories of seeing him in concert...in the film "Carmen"...on CD and album covers....on You Tube.  His technique was fast as lightning...an incredible virtuoso who innovated the music with the inclusion of cajon...who jammed and toured with John MacLaughlin and Al DiMeola...breaking down barriers...who fused flamenco with other genres of music.  Now Paco has joined the ancestors, leaving behind a legacy of greatness for us to treasure, revisit and discover again.  Adios Maestro!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mayito Takes Over S.F.!

The Sixth Annual SF Salsa Rueda Festival which is the equivalent of the Cuban version of the annual Salsa Congress took place this past weekend at the Hotel Whitcomb.  I attended Saturday night which featured ex-Los Van Van vocalist Mayito Rivera with Timbalive, DJ Walt Digz and quite a number of spectacular dance troupes dancing in the Cuban salsa style, Casino De Rueda or elaborate dance routines incorporating Timba music.  Mayito Rivera simply bowled over the Whitcomb audience with his charisma, great voice, fierce sonero style and impeccable showmanship.  Mayito, with long  dreadlocks going down his back, handsome looks and dressed in a white outfit, had the crowd working out with him, ladies dancing on stage, arms raised in unison and rhythm.  He sang some Van Van favorites and his own material backed up masterfully by Miami's own Timbalive who sounded great all night long.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

SF Bay Finally Living Musically Large!!

There is now a well deserved focus on the SF Bay Area Latin/Salsa scene since Pacific Mambo Orchestra won the grammy award for Best Tropical Latin recording.  The bay area has been a mecca for great musicians, bands and dj's for quite a number of years.  Perhaps the best kept secret in the United States since most of the attention goes to New York (which has been fading as an influential spot for years), Miami and Los Angeles.  Great musicians such as Louie Romero, Orestes Vilato, John Santos, Rebeca Mauleon, Jesus Diaz, John Calloway, Carlos Caro, Karl Perrazo, Anthony Blea, Marco Diaz, Bill Ortiz, and that's just scratching the surface of a rich scene here, have made the Bay Area their base of operations for many years!  It has been a hot bed of activity with new recordings coming out by Marco Diaz, Julio Bravo, The Latin Rhythm Boys, John Santos and his many projects including the new recording by 78 year old Cuban vocalist Ernesto Oviedo and the Salsa De La Bahia project spearheaded by Wayne Wallace and Rita Hargrave.  Clubs, salsa dance socials, festivals and concerts by major artists are commonplace in the SF Bay.  And that's just in the Salsa scene.  All genres of music continue to thrive with great contributions of all the fine musicians that live and work here.  Let's continue to bathe in the collective sunshine!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sly And The Family Stone's Stand Performed Live in SF

The Independent was packed wall to wall on Sunday night by people of all walks of life paying tribute to the music of Sly and the Family Stone.  Vocalist Zakiya Harris was on stage with her large troupe of singers, dancers and musicians putting their take on the Sly classic "Higher".  The energy was high as the producers UnderCover presented this unique tribute to Sly with different bands from all genres of music each taking turns playing one song from a classic album.  The crowd roared with approval as they heard funky, hard rock, jazzy and latinized versions of the classic "Stand" album.  The Marcus Shelby Quartet was a crowd pleaser.  Mission district's own Bayonics came on next with a crowd rousing version of "Sing A Simple Song".  They flipped the song to bring in the Latin flavor and took the crowd to a higher place. Sly alumni Rusty Allen, who took Larry Graham's place in the 70's was practicing and taking in the groove happening on stage from his spot in the VIP mezzanine section.  KPFA's Rickey Vincent from the History Of Funk program was the emcee.  He took the opportunity to make his own comments and recall classic moments.  It was a groove thang!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tribute To Cachao/Walfredo De Los Reyes at SF Jazz Center

Last night, Grammy nominated percussionist/bandleader John Santos pulled off another great all-star tribute at the beautiful SF Jazz Center in San Francisco.  This tribute was to honor the late genius who was instrumental in the development of the descarga, mambo and danzon,  Israel Lopez "Cachao" and the living drum/percussion legend Walfredo De Los Reyes Sr. who also developed the descarga and Cuban Jazz.  The sold out show was divided into two halves: the first set was devoted to the Cuban Danzon, many of which were written by Cachao.  John Santos and his talented sextet made of pianist/trumpeter Marco Diaz, bassist Saul Sierra, drummer David Flores, saxophonist Melecio Magdaluyo and flutist/pianist John Calloway were joined by Cuban master woodwind master Paquito D' Rivera,  the Cultural Revolution string trio led by violinist Anthony Blea, legendary timbalero Orestes Vilato and conguero Javier Navarette.

What a beautiful set of danzon, strings and swing expertly played by this ensemble.  Rivera was a delight as he balanced his virtuosity with his great sense of humor.  There were plenty of musical fireworks as almost everyone had an opportunity to solo and shine.  The second half of the show was dedicated to the "descarga" or jam session that both Cachao and De Los Reyes were noted pioneers.  The ensemble were cookin' with explosive fervor with the three horn section of Rivera, Magdaluyo and Calloway.  Walfredo De Los Reyes Sr. joined the band displaying his brilliance on the timbales and trap set especially on his composition "Leche Con Ron".  If that wasn't enough, surprise guest, former Santana conguero Raul Rekow brought the house down with a fiery conga solo near the end of the set. All of the participants were at the top of their game playing with passion and displaying their fierce virtuosity.

I'm delighted that SF Jazz continues their commitment to great music thanks to executive director Randall Kline!  Thanks to artistic director John Santos for his enthusiastic vision in planning and presenting this excellent show.