Roaring 70s to Delight Salsa Lovers at MOLAA

Outdoor concert features classic New York-style with Herman Olivera, Conjunto Costazul and salsa flutist Art Webb, Sept. 26

By Teresa Gordon
Published on LatinoLA: September 20, 2015

Roaring 70s to Delight Salsa Lovers at MOLAA

Dancers and music lovers who covet salsa's explosive beginnings in the New York scene of the 1970s will get a rare opportunity to enjoy an authentic experience on Saturday, September 26 at 8 p.m. at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Grammy-award winning vocalist Herman Olivera will return to Southern California from the East Coast to join acclaimed West Coast orchestra Conjunto Costazul, for a first-time ever collaboration. The concert will also includes internationally acclaimed salsa flutist Art Webb as special guest.

The concert series, now in its third year, is the brainchild of entrepreneur and salsa DJ Guido Herrera. "I want to put on shows that I myself want to see, " says Herrera, a native of Peru. "These concerts are about creating an opportunity to hear music in Los Angeles that is not normally offered."

Herrera recalls his first Latin music concert in Southern California--a performance by Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Vald?®s at Cal State Northridge--and after that, he was hooked. "If there was a show, I wanted to see it," says Herrera, who has been a host of the weekend "Alma del Barrio" salsa music program on KXLU-FM radio of Loyola-Marymount University since 1998.

His particular focus of the New York sound stems from his longing to have seen such greats as Machito, Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente perform live. "Thank God for youtube," Herrera notes. In fact, the most recent concert Herrera presented at MOLAA featured the music of Dizzy Gillespie, a talent he admired, but never got to see perform live.

Vocalist Herman Olivera is equally enthusiastic about being brought back a second time to perform in Molaa's outdoor sculpture garden. "I am grateful to share my music, and Southern Californians are really appreciative," says the singer. The concert marks the 37th anniversary, nearly to the day, when Oliver first debuted with legendary New York band Conjunto Libre in 1978.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Puerto Rico, Olivera was encouraged by his father to pursue a more typical career as a doctor or attorney. But Olivera had other dreams, studying the stylings of such singers as Hector Lavoe and Cheo Feliciano. After launching his singing career, Olivera performed with Conjunto Libre, under the direction of Manny Oquendo and Andy Gonzalez, for the next 20 years. He then performed with such greats as Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Bobby Rodriguez y La Compania and The Machito Orchestra. His current work with Eddie Palmieri's Orchestra is featured on five of Palmieri's CDs, including the double Grammy-winning "Masterpiece/Obra Maestra" with the great Tito Puente.

When Olivera takes the microphone, the audience will be treated to his usual swoon-worthy stage presence, complete with suit and tie. "I learned from watching Tito Rodriguez and Frank Sinatra," Olivera notes about his style references.

"Herman Olivera is such a fantastic singer," says Freddy Crespo, one of the founders of Conjunto Costazul. "He has the talent to adapt to all styles of singing. With the 1970s theme of this concert, it's a perfect match."

Crespo, a percussionist and singer, founded Conjunto Costazul with his brother Johnny 27 years ago. While dancers and music lovers will recall enjoying Costazul in Southern California over the years, including regular appearances at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art during the summer, the band has not performed here in two years. Freddy Crespo is now based in Arizona, close to grandchildren.

"This is our music," says Crespo. "It is important to involve young kids in the scene to keep the music growing."

Concert-goers will also be treated to acclaimed flutist Artie Webb. Webb himself was part of the legendary New York salsa scene of the 70s, having been hired by Ray Barretto to become the youngest member of his band in 1972. While in New York, Webb performed and recorded with Tito Puente, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Eddie Palmieri and the Fania All Stars. In recent years, Southern Californians have enjoyed Webb as part of the late Johnny Polanco's band, performing almost nightly for 20 years.

"I'm putting on these concerts for the love of the music," says Guido Herrera. And for the dancers and music lovers, a true 1970s experience awaits, bell-bottoms and floral headbands optional.

Doors will open for the concert at 6:30 p.m., with food and beverages offered. Tickets may be purchased at www.molaa.org or by calling MOLAA at (562)437-1689.

About Teresa Gordon:
Teresa Gordon is a freelance writer who has been published in Latin Beat, Hispanic and Sabor magazines, and the Daily Breeze newspaper. She has also been a docent at the Museum of Latin American Art.

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