More than 500 people featuring a who's who in the salsa scene crowded the Granada nightclub in Alhambra on March 3 to raise funds for legendary flutist Artie Webb, who is suffering financial hardship due to a heart condition. The fundraiser was the brainchild of renowned bandleader Johnny Polanco, for whom Webb has performed for decades in Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto Amistad.
"We have been friends for 42 years," said Polanco. "You can't abandon a person in need."
And it was also a glitterati gathering of salsa VIPs who were there to pay tribute to Webb. There was Grammy-winning pianist Oscar Hernandez, who joined the band for several numbers, Grammy-winning jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, and vocalist Candi Sosa, who also performed.
Promoter Albert Torres sat front and center, and there was [b]Mel and Sylvia Morrow of Morrowland records, Yvette and Rudy Mangual from Latin Beat Magazine, and Armando Castro from El Floridita, for whom Johnny and his band recently celebrated their 20th anniversary at the storied Hollywood venue.
Media included Dena Burroughs of VidaSalsera, with DJs from Alma del Barrio including Alan Geik, Guido Herrera, Jose Cristobal and Lily Regalado, and Canto Tropical DJs, including Kathy Diaz and Armando Nila.
Other musicians who came to play and support the event included Eddy Ortiz of Son Mayor and Angel Lebron, Ricardo Lemvo, La Palabra., and dance icon Laura Canellias.
Polanco was touched by the overwhelming outpouring of support that included Glendale's Noypitz club promoters Jose Hernandez and Andy Lorenzo, who shuttered their own Sunday night venues to leave the spotlight on Artie's night.
While DJ Robby spun some classics to heat up the dance floor, many stopped over to greet Webb, who sat near the stage before Polanco's first set. But the crowd steadily built toward the band, anticipating a song from Artie. At last, Webb was escorted to the stage, performing a blistering flute solo to "Ben Ben Quiere." Cell phone cameras everywhere rose aloft to capture what was surely a moment for the ages.
"It was very emotional," said Debby Farley, whose constant stream of emails each week keep the salsa community informed. "I had tears in my eyes."
The event lifted Artie's spirits, Polanco reported days later. "It was about showing respect," he said. "People wanted to show how much they cared."
Donations for the Artie Webb Fundraiser can be mailed to JP Amistad Music, Inc. 4067 Hardwick Ave., #385. Lakewood, California 90712.
Teresa Gordon is a freelance writer who has published in Latin Beat, Hispanic and Sabor Magazines, and the Daily Breeze newspapers. She has been a docent with the Museum of Latin American Art.