Chicago-Based Bands - Son de la Habana

Son De La Habana

Review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved

Background:  According to leader/keyboard player Manases "Manny" Rivera, who is originally from Maracaibo, Venezuela,  Son De La Habana was originally formed in 2003 and then recently reorganized.   The core group as of September 2012 is now a septet with Manases Rivera, leader/keyboards, Jerome Croswell, Trumpet/Flugelhorn/Percussion, Johnny Martinez, electric guitar/vocals/percussion, Brett Benteler, bass/vocals, Jose Ormaza, drums,  Daniel Larez, percussion / vocals and Bobby Delgado, percussion/vocals.   The band does a combination of Latin Jazz and dance music including Salsa and modern Cuban dance music.  In addition to its other performances, as of September 2012, it has a regular engagement at Sabor a Cafe on the second and last Saturday of each month. 

What we saw and heard:   Although this group plays a number of familiar songs, it is a little different from most of the groups on the Chicago scene.  For one thing, it's more electronic. Unlike many of the Chicago keyboard players who take a rather conservative approach to their instruments and stick close to piano or basic organ tone settings, Manny Rivera takes full advantage of the tools available in his equipment, and the result is that some songs include the kinds of synthesizer effects that you frequently hear from true Cuban bands such as Afrocuba and Irakere but less often from bands based in the US.   Johnny Martinez adds some electric guitar pyrotechnics that you would commonly associate with the music of Carlos Santana, Grupo Afrocuba, Reyes 73  or Elmer Ferrer but don't find that often in "mainstream" US-based bands. For another, although Martinez and Croswell are frequently busy with their  "lead"  instruments, when they aren't playing those, they change up to percussion, and there is frequently a five-man rhythm section at work, which adds extra depth to the songs.  The drum kit adds an extra dimension as well:   Son De La Habana is not the only band with a trap drummer but may be the only one in Chicago using the combination of a trap drummer and this many other percussionists.  This instrumentation permits them do so some credible covers of some material from Irakere's dance book among other things.  Brett Benteler has studied modern Cuban bass stylings and learned them well, which also helps.  When we heard them live,  at Sabor a Cafe, they were missing one percussionist for the evening, but this didn't seem to be much of an obstacle as  Martinez and Croswell both handle percussion quite well.   

The Verdict:   This is an impressive band with an eclectic book, and although it is not, strictly speaking, a TImba or Nueva Onda band, it  may capture the musical spirit that gave birth to groups like Reyes 73, Afrocuba and Irakere better than any other group currently playing in Chicago.  This group is definitely worth checking out, especially if you enjoy those other bands. 

 

 

 

 

 

domingo, 09 septiembre 2012, 11:03 pm