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Chicago-Based Bands - Afinca'o

Afinca'o

(Photos and review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved)

cuban music, musica cubana

Afinca'o at the Roundhouse, March 11, 2011

Background:  Back in the '70's and '80s, one of Chicago's most important salsa bands, La Confidencia, was led by a trumpeter of Czech descent, Richard Straka.  Today, one of Chicago's best salsa bands is led by a trombonist of German and Mexican descent, Joe Mende.  According to Joe, Afinca'o has been together since 2007.  The core group consists of Joe Mende, leader/trombone and coro; Oscar Lopez, bass/coro; Mike Rosario, keyboards; Tito Nieves, congas; Brian Rivera, Timbales; Renier Rosario, lead vocalist; Victor Garcia, trumpet; and Robert Collazo, saxophone.   Joe named several different bands as influences and mentioned that many of the musicians had jazz experience as well.  Key strengths are the solo work and the depth of the bench -- there were no noticable weak spots in the group.    The trumpeter also plays for Orchestra Infraverde and the Chicago Latin Jazz Ensemble; the saxophonist also plays for Nabori.  The band currently has a CD in progress that is expected out some time later this year.

What we saw and heard:  We took in two different sets for this group.  On Friday, March 11, 2011, we took in a set by a slightly reduced version of the band (the trumpet and saxophone were not present) at the (now closed) Roundhouse in Aurora.   This version of the ensemble showcased solo work from the piano, trombone and congas.  Although they weren't covering Eddie's book, some of the set had a feel that reminded this writer a little of Eddie Palmieri's La Perfecta before he added trumpets, especially in terms of how the piano and trombone were used.  Much of the set was hard-driving salsa, but a merengue was mixed in, and there were some slower (but not too slow) dance numbers.  

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Afinca'o at The Cubby Bear, March 13, 2011

On Sunday, March 13, 2011, we took in a set by the full band at  The Cubby Bear.  The addition of the trumpet and the saxophone upgraded the band from something that we would have  just called very good to a genuine powerhouse.  At its best, Garcia's upper-register trumpet work can be almost Irakere-caliber at times,  and almost all of the band turned in some fine solo work at some point during the evening.  One thing that makes Afinca'o distinct from many other area bands is that the conguero and timbalero both take solos, and this is has become relatively rare locally.  The material  varied from hard-driving  Cuban-style son and rumba to  some more laid-back Puerto Rican-style salsa  and guaguanco (including a dash of Salsa Romantica towards the end) and a little salsa-cumbia fusion.

The verdict:  Go see this group, ideally the full band, but don't pass on the smaller ensemble either, it still turns in a credible set.  Definitely in the first tier of Chicago's salsa groups, and it has the chops to become a band with eventual national recognition if the repertoire for the upcoming CD was chosen carefully enough.    We will be watching closely for its release.

Afinca'o has a website, a Facebook page  and a Myspace page:

Afincao.com

Afincao's Facebook page

Myspace.com/afinca39o

 

Monday, 16 January 2012, 02:35 PM