Chicago-Based Bands - Johnny Blas & Afro-Libre

Johnny Blas & Afro-Libre
by Bill Tilford, All rights reserved



Background:  
Conguero Johnny Blas, a New York native, did a previous stint in Chicago but has worked in several other cities, toured internationally and has five Latin Jazz recordings under his belt on the Ubiquity and Cubop labels.   He recently relocated to Chicago and has put together a new Salsa Dura nonet powered by three trombones.   Personnel at this writing include Johnny Blas, conguero/leader, Johnny Rodriguez, lead vocals/minor percussion, Willie "Bongomaniak" Mollfulleda, bongo, Alex English, keyboards, Dan Stark, 3rd trombone; John Mose, 1st trombone, Arturo Vazquez Jr., 2nd trombone; Jaime Mojica, bass and Danny Hernandez, timbales. 


What we saw and heard:
   We caught this group at Mambo Café (Club Mambo) at their debut set on Friday, Feb 28, 2014.  Much of the book was classic Fania era Salsa (vintage 70s Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colon for example); the trombone section was chosen well and hits hard.  

The Verdict:  Mambo Café is not always a fair acoustical setting to fully evaluate a band with a power trombone section due to the size of the smaller room, but this was a promising start, and this band is worth checking out, especially in a larger room.   The band is publicly counseled that while it is absolutely welcome to the scene, it already has plenty of competition on the Fania front in Chicago. As it gets a few gigs under its belt, it may want to consider ways to send the book in directions that will clearly set it apart from the rest of the pack.  In the meantime, we would listen to them again.   

Johnny Blas' website is http://www.johnnyblas.com/

Sunday, 02 March 2014, 10:01 PM