Review Concert at NYC's BLUE NOTE

Samuel Torres, a dynamic Latin percussionist, appearing in clubs about town, opened this second brunch set with a Colombian harp-cahone (a wooden, percussive box, also used in Flamenco) duo. The beat was salsa, and the sound was sensational. Edmar Castañeda produced a milder sound, elegant and melodic, that contrasted with Samuel Torres’ heated action. Torres’ style was straight and searing, as unusual rhythmic effects were drawn from various points on the box. El Pozo, in memory of great percussionists who are no longer with us, brought out the full band, and Michael Rodriguez’ trumpet pierced the club with sharp, clear sound. Ernesto Simpson on drums, Ricky Rodriguez on bass, Manuel Valera on Bösendorfer piano (courtesy of Bösendorfer New York), and Torres on congas all created an Afro-Latin mood, pulsating and exotic. The full compliment of up front and close congas, all positioned on the floor, added power and passion to this and to each of the following compositions. The piano took an abstract jazz theme, accompanied by conga clavé, and a fused sound followed the Latin showcase. In Ajiaco, dedicated to Torres’ homeland, Colombia, a conga-drum duo ensued with ethnic energy. It ended in a whisper.

As a tribute to Africa, Torres wrote Yaounde, named for the capital of Cameroon. Wood blocks, wind chimes, shakers, and other exotic percussion fused with the band in a wild African motif, evocative of the scores heard in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Michael Rodriguez’ trumpet soared and resounded through Blue Note, as cymbals clashed and congas echoed. A sharp trumpet ending merged with the band to end the African moment. The Congas Solo was truly a masterpiece, and Torres threw his physical and psychic energy into the performance. Each of the six congas was played in different ways - different rhythms, volume, and tone - a true conga tribute for the enjoyment of the audience. Express to Queens, the brunch finale, featured a rapid beat, hot and brassy, with Valera’s piano and Ricky Rodriguez’ electric bass adding to the Caliente! mood.