Songs of Sixth & Spring

Music soothes the somber beast

By belardo de la Pe?a Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: April 18, 2001

Songs of Sixth & Spring

Queer Chicana/o artists, writers, performers, and critics came together for an unforgettable celebration of love, identity, and sexuality in honor of San Valentin earlier this year.
Otro Corazon: Queering the Art of Aztlan was the brainchild of Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba, professor and director of UCLA's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Studies Program. Otro Corazon was a recognition, validation and celebration of queer existence and love within the often-homophobic Chicana/o community.
It's been strangely sad and silent lately in the opulent World HQ of LatinoLA, overlooking the corner of Sixth & Spring in downtown LatinoLA. Though the blinds are wide open, all there is to see is the exterior of a plain concrete mid-rise, some kind of government office. No one ever comes to visit. And with the way the economy has been going...no te lo digo.
But just this week, Spring finally arrived (at least in my head) and with hope taking over I decided to clean up the office, burn some incense and veladoras (red, of course) and finally get around to buying batteries for the portable CD player that's hooked up via a cassette adapter to the old-school boombox cast away by a once young and crazy son of mine whose tastes have refined somewhat.
The short stack of CDs hidden behind the little fountain on top of the metal cabinet are now sorted. And here they are:
"Latin Jazz Romance" by Bobby Rodriguez (Latin Jazz Productions, 2001)
Bobby Rodriguez is a well-known and respected local figure in the Latin jazz scene, as a bandleader, educator and empresario. He's also quite a romantic. The Grammy-nominated Rodriguez's flugelhorn smoothly slides over a set of some classic songs whose subject is simply, love. Such bolero standards as El reloj and Solomente Una vez get the treatment, bien suave, as does the Jose Alfredo Jimenez classic Historia de un amor. Agustin Lara's Solamente una vez is done as a soft sambe, while Sabor a mi sways gently, with the simple percussive rhythm accentuating the sensuality of the song.
"The music on this recording is compassionate, caring, sensuous, romantic, scintillaring and erotic. It's music to love by," say the liner notes. Played as background music, it sets a mellow mood. Listen to the melodies and the words come to mind. The subtle, yet inventive, solos by Rodriguez and his sidemen speak of musicians giving in to the mood. Isn't it fitting that his wife produced the album?
This one's making the candles burn bright!
More about Bobby Rodriguez at http://www.bobbyrodriguez.com
"Canto" by Los Super Seven (Sony Legacy, 2001)
By the third song, I'm smiling. If a Tejano could also become a sonero, there's hope for every one of us!
Coming together in 1998 as kind of the US Southwest version of the Buena Vista Social Club, Los Super Seven consist of rotating singers and musicians that unearth gems and polish them up with expert musicianship and heartfelt interpretation. While the first collecton had a decidely Mexican feel to it, suffused with earthy emotions and raw passion, Canto features the lighter, livelier lilt of musica tropical.
Local pianist Alberto Salas forms the rhythmic backbone that brings to life a variety of Latin American styles, from such magical places as Cuba, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos both indulge in their passion for telling stories from real life. Hidalgo and Los Lobos co-writer Louie Perez contribute two original songs, Calle 16, a rememberance of childhood gone by, and Teresa, prayer for the impossible sung in English with a Brazilian beat.
Reminds me, I have to find a Santa Teresa veladora.
Cesar Rosas tell the tales of both El pescador, straight out of Veracruz, and his original, Campesino, reminescent in theme and style of Ruben Blade's socially conscious songs. Raul Malo of country-style The Maverick's redeems his Cubano roots with a hauntingly spare version of Siboney, while Ruben Ramos returns to Los Super Seven fold with the bawdy Compay gato. Peruvian songstress Susana Baca contributes the lullaby-like Drumi mobila and Brazilian icon Caeano Veloso soulful vocals spark Qualquer coisa and Baby.
For me, el estrella is Rick Trevi?o, best known as a country western singer who first got back to his raices with the original Los Super Seven CD. Here, he first takes on macho boastfullness of El que siembra su maiz, followed by the jarocho-like song from the Colombian coast, Paloma quaramera, dipping and twisting his voice around a sad tale of grief and loss. The pleasure he takes in bringing these songs to life comes across clearly, happily.
I'm coming back to life.
More about Los Super Seven at http://www.legacyrecordings.com/lossuperseven/
Satelite (Satelitemusica Records, 2001)
Uh, I have to confess something here.
I really haven't listened to this one very closely. Satelite sent a great press packet, they've been promoting this new CD like crazy via their e.mail listserve, have planted themselves as the house band for LA LA Mondays at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, and are a favorite of KCRW's Morning Become Eclectic
From their biography on http://www.satelitemusica.com:
" Los Angeles' Satelite mix organic rock and pop with electronica creating musical textures which are at once ethereal, catchy and pulsating. Their lyrics, sung in Spanish, are emotive and introspective. "Fiction is really important," says Jamie Perlman, the group's vocalist. "We want to take the listener somewhere else. My lyrics are born out of personal subjects, but they are also purposely ambiguous. I believe that art should give the listener the space to arrive at his or her own conclusions and interpretations".
OK. What I hear is dark pop, driven by a propulsive back beat, accentuated with electronic flourishes. The hooks are minimal, but the underlying drama of the vocals are hauntingly hypnotic, but the words are oh, so sad.
Cada vez que estoy con vos
es la ultima
porque es la que te mato
y te violo
es la que te pego a gritos pego
y te robo el aire
A chill wind is blowing outside.
"Rabanes" by Rabanes (Crescent Moon Records, 2001)
I can't really see down into the streets from my window. From the fifth floor, the sights, sounds, smells of Sixth and Spring are far, far, away.
I tell you, this part of town could get a little rough. The collision of humanity in this urban center could be overwhelming. This used to be the financial center of LA, until they built the skyscrapers a few blocks to the west. What remains is a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. Naw, it's really not that bad. In fact this area of downtown could get pretty magical. One day where no one should stay away is Fiesta Broadway, with 36 blocks closed off in an orgy of food, music, entertainment, and promotional giveaways.
This year (April 29), Rabanes will be taking one of the many stages that dot the Fiesta. From their website: "They cover a multi-color spectrum of rhythms that comes together to create a unique sound. You can hear the echo of a whimsical trumpet band as well as the sounds of Carribean drums. Panamanian folklore embraces rap, takes rock by one hand and reggae by the other, resulting in an unparalled sound. Even though this is their third production, Rabanes have kept the same flavor that launched them to success. And it is with that self-trust that the members from this Panamanian group, Emelio Regueira, Christain torres and Javier Saavedra, release their new production titled "Rabanes", already on sale."
I tell you, this is very lively. Touches of ska, salsa and samba ignite with the hip hop beat. Some raw punk, too. Did I hear some raggae? It's party music, ajua! That does it, I'm going to end this right now, get up and dance.
And then join the humanity, outside.
And really, what more could we ask for?

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