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Fotos: Patrick Bonnard
Staff: Ricardo Culque
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Chicago-Based Bands - Orquesta Con Son
Orquesta Con Son
(Photos and review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved)
Background: According to leader Jose Valdes, Orquesta Con Son itself has been operating under that name for about a year, but the musicians in the band have been playing together in other formats and under other names for 15-20 years. Most of the group has R & B and/or Jazz experience as well as extensive experience with Latin music. The group consists of Jose Valdes, leader and piano; Sonia Perez, lead vocals and percussion; Luis "Prieto" Rosario, timbales and coro; Nathan Rodriguez, congas and coro; Dez Dezormeaux, reeds and flute; Bob Lovecchio, bass; Fred Cantu, trumpet and John Mose, trombone. Mr. Valdes named Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri and Papo Lucca (Sonora Ponceña) as some key influences for the band; the lead vocalist, Ms. Perez, mentioned Sophy as a vocal inspiration for her salsa work. Some of the group's key strengths are the solid piano work, a tight percussion section, the ability to handle both the Puerto Rican and Cuban styles of salsa equally well and the jazz inflections in some of the solo work. Having a female lead vocalist also helps distinguish this group from most of the other Chicago-area bands.
What we saw and heard: We took in a set at the (now closed) Roundhouse in Aurora on Friday, March 18th (for a more general article about Friday night salsa dancing at the Roundhouse, see Sultry Salsa Fridays Live ). The trumpet and trombone were not present for this set, so the piano and reeds did the heavy lifting on the instrumental end. The band dished up a nice collection of classic Cuban and Puerto Rican salsa including (among other things) Ahora Mismo , Llego La Banda, Moliendo Cafe , El Manicero and Celia Cruz's classic Quimbara as well as some very good cumbia and bachata. The influence of the Palmieri brothers was very evident in the piano solos, which were extended, well-executed, and had nice little twists that reminded this writer of some of Charlie Palmieri's work particularly (the sax solos occasionally evoked memories of some of Chombo Silva's work as well). The group was able to shift back and forth very comfortably between a tipica or charanga feel and a more Boricua salsa groove as needed by the songs.
The verdict: We need to start with the disclaimer that since the trumpet and trombone weren't present, there are almost certainly some aspects of this group's musical personality that we didn't meet when we heard it. We hope to have an opportunity to check out the fuller ensemble at some time in the future. What we heard was a very well-done rendition of salsa classics with some good cumbia and bachata on the side, and we would especially recommend this band to fans of groups like the early Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri and the Alegre All Stars. Orquesta Con Son doesn't copy them, but in many ways, it does carry on in their spirit. Like the Alegre All Stars, this group is able to breathe new life into old classics like El Manicero. On the vocal side of the equation, the lead singer, Sonia Perez, isn't Celia Cruz (and doesn't attempt to be her) but does have a fine voice and handles her material well.
Orquesta Con Son itself does not have a web page, but Valdes Music Productions, which oversees a mix of bands, does: