Listen Up: Wednesday, September 12, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Amistad

Caliente (Humpin’ Puppy Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

A few weeks ago, I was checking out Latin Express at the Black Dog Tavern when Leo Saenz jokingly introduced a Spanish-language song with an assurance to the Anglos in the audience that “You don’t have to leave — we’re not talking about you!” It was said in fun, but it raised a point: linguistic and cultural differences do separate us. I wondered just how many great Latin bands there are in Fort Worth. Then this disc arrived, the work of a two-year old Northside octet — regulars at Maqina Musical at Long and Azle avenues — who gig frequently all over the Metroplex.

These days, eclecticism is the buzzword, and these guys are no exception, mixing their cumbia with the slower vallenato style as well as reggae, rock, and hip-hop. The dominant sounds here are Rene Maldonado’s keyboards — often playing the role of a full horn section — and that cumbia staple, the accordion (played either by Rene, his brother Ramon, or guests Ricardo “Riche” Gracia and Miguel “White Boy” Cazares). Guitarist Jorge Arista namechecks Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hendrix, but his proximate model appears to be, uh, Santana. Most valuable player is definitely Roger Avitia on drums, whose work is nothing short of phenomenal.

The tunes range from the self-explanatory “Caliente” and “Baila” to the ballad “Si Tu No Estas.” When all the elements blend perfectly, as they do on “Morena,” “Esta Noche,” and “Vato Loco,” the music’s a gas, and a reminder of why a gig by a hot Latin band is such a great spectator event for a dance-impaired person like me (remember, Latin soul is in the hips). While the songs are all sung en español, I feel pretty sure they’re not talking about me.


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