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Photos of the Day [hide]
Eliel Lazo at Sabor a Café 2015
Eliel Lazo Gives Up The Cuban Funk
Eliel Lazo at Sabor a Café, Chicago, Illinois, 6 February 2015
Summary and photos by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved
Eliel Lazo isn't new to the scene - he recently released his 4th album, Eliel Lazo & the Cuban Funk Machine. What is new is that he has been digging deep into both Songo and North American Funk and is throwing down a blend that combines the best elements of both. This concert (and a percussion workshop the next day) came during a brief US trip in which he also performed in Los Angeles and recorded a couple of videos at Congahead in New Jersey. Sabor a Café is an intimate but increasingly important performance space/restaurant (it excels as both) for Cuban (and other) music in Chicago. Even when groups aren't playing their main gig there, they frequently drop in afterwards to hang out and/or jam.
Eliel is from Cuba, but Copenhagen, Denmark is home base for him these days, and naturally I had to ask him how he acclimates the non-Cuban musicians who form part of his group to his music. He explained that rather than try to "cubanize" them, his requirement for them is that they be funky - it is the responsibility of the Cuban musicians to provide the Cuban elements in the music. Anyone who might be skeptical about that philosophy only needs to listen to a couple of songs to be converted.
This concert used Orlando Sanchez Soto on saxophone/keyboards, Joshua Ramos on bass, Rob Block on guitar/keyboards and Charles Heath on drums. Eliel was front and center on congas. The two set show included some selections from the new album as well as older material. Real Funk (not to be confused with some of the pseudo-Funk being played these days) needs to do two things: move your a** AND stimulate your mind. I already knew going in that Orlando Sanchez Soto (aka Cubajazz) would be able to hold up his end, but guitarist/keyboardist Rob Block exceeded expectations - I was aware that he was quite talented but did not associate him with this level of Cuban music previously. Now that his secret is out, it will be interesting to see where he goes with it. Bassist Joshua Ramos and drummer Charles Heath brought THE FUNK - each of them had moments that wowed the other band members as much as the audience.
The next time Eliel comes back this way, hopefully it will be part of a multi-city tour. In the meantime, get your copy of his new album Eliel Lazo & The Cuban Funk Machine - if it doesn't move you, an ambulance is probably already on its way for you. His website is here.
Click on the images below to enlarge them.