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Sweet Latin Soul Music, California-style

The Kool Katz and Pete Escovedo pay tribute to AZTECA and Latin Soul Music

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: October 1, 2008


Sweet Latin Soul Music, California-style


For many reading this piece across United States, or around the World, the term "Latin Soul Music" has different meanings, depending on where you're reading this from. It does not include Hip-Hop, Rap, Punk Rock, world, or alternative music.

In Florida and the southeast, the Afro-Caribean-Cubano influenced sounds of sensual percussions and hard driving mambo, salsa, & reggeat??n is Latin Soul at it's tropical finest.

Up in the northeast in places like New York and New Jersey, the Puerto Rican inspired Latino sounds of salsa, mambo, "Soul en espa??ol", and Latin free style is a fresh breath of sophisticated inner city Latin rock/traditional Puerto Rican/R&B mixed with distinct influences from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico make for another flavor of Latin Soul.

In Texas, the Tejano sound is a world within itself with its romantic, sometimes rowdy, classic Spanish lyrics set in a background of a cacophony of rock/traditional Mexican/big band/country fusion sounds unique to that southwest part of the country. Their boleros are to die for, and bring a new meaning to Latin Soul.

In Los Angeles, the Land of 1000 Dances, the classic "East Side Sound" and the unmistakable Oldies/R&B/Funk/Cumbia~Disco/Rock/Rock en espa??ol fusion sounds that make the adult L.A. and the Southern California Latin Soul music scene what it is today make for another flavor, but still, Latin Soul.

All four of these points of reference can be correctly construed as homes of American Latin Soul music, with the love of music, Spanish surnames, Spanish ancestry, Spanish language, and large Latino populations being a common denominator. The majority of the artists in this music genre being Latino, with numerous and very welcome talented exceptions, of course, are what make the music universally recognized and appreciated as an entity within itself around the world.

A fifth and final location that makes up the unique American Latin Soul constellation of stars and music that has traversed the globe is the central Californian San Francisco-Oakland Bay area, home to the sounds of such artists as SANTANA, TOWER OF POWER, SAPO, MALO, The MYSTIQUE BAND, THE LATIN SOUL PROJECT, THE KOOL KATZ, and AZTECA, producing another form of Latin Soul music unique within itself, California style, that blends well with all the previously mentioned.

It is the last two mentioned artists, separated by only a generation, that have made a distinct impact of "then & now" music that inspired this piece.

I first saw AZTECA perform in San Diego in 1973, and I have been a fan of the Escovedo brothers, Pete & Coke, that made up the nucleus of AZTECA, ever since. Opening up for Boz Scaggs at the time, AZTECA was virtually unknown ‘«™ but that changed quickly after that concert.

Having had the pleasure of meeting and making friends with the Kool Katz in early 2005, I have also been a fan of their music ever since. As one of California's top vanguard Chicano "Keepers of the Faith" bands, bandleader Art Galvan, along with his wife and lead singer Kelly Galvan, have closely adhered to the type of music that is distinctly California Latin Rock & Soul, and have produced several original tunes .

They have been called upon to back up such Latin Soul music greats as Joe Bataan, Rudy and Steve Salas, Johnny Hernandez, Richard Bean of SAPO, and played alongside MALO. In Los Angeles, they have performed at the famed Radisson Hotel in Whittier, and last year in Pico Rivera, they opened up for Cory Silva's salute to Motown legends which included such heavy hitters as the Temptations, the Marvellettes, The Delfonics, the Shirelles, and many others.

So it was last week that Pete Escovedo, still going strong as a solo artist, called upon the Kool Katz to back him up as he reunited with AZTECA lead singer Errol Knowles, and special guests Juan Escovedo and Confunkshun's Ron Moton, for an AZTECA tribute concert up in Santa Clara's famed Avalon club, which I was honored to have been asked to host and MC.

Opening up the show was Bay Area favorite the HIPSTREET Band, featuring former American Idol Show finalist Francisca Bravo at lead vocals, giving up a good bit of funk and dance music that got things going.

Next the Kool Katz, re-tooled, re-vamped, re-charged and up on a good foot came up and gave up a great performance of some of their classic tunes with the horns and percussion blasting away, keeping the dance floor full. Of course, Kelly Galvan was masterful at lead vocals, and the closing tune of everybody's favorite dance song "Tighten Up" included killer percussion solos of congas and timbales that put a new twist to an old song, making it fresh and new again‘«™.something the Kool Katz are known for doing.

Lead guitarist Art Galvan could easily hold his own against any of L.A.'s best, in my opinion, and if you haven't heard him, you're missing out on a great musical experience!

To close off the show, Pete Escovedo, as always looking sharp and dapper, came on stage followed by Errol Knowles, who were both presented with a lifetime achievement awards for their contribution to American Latin Soul music, and for helping put California on the American music map.

Then they played like it was yesterday, hitting classic AZTECA jams like "Ain't Got No Special Woman," and "Love Not Then" with Kelly Galvan putting in double duty as lead female vocalist. Of course, the band gave tribute to the musical genius that was the late, great Coke Escovedo, founder of AZTECA, and the audience was treated to some of California's finest Latin Soul music on the planet, as the Gente danced, and cameras flashed.

Latin Soul music‘«™gotta love it, baby!

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the "Al Capone of the microphone & the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul" heard on www.eastLArevue.com and www.ChicanoExpress.com
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