Concert Review: Orquesta Aragón

When you’re a legend, I suppose, you really don’t need the hype. That was the case when the venerable Cuban charanga ensemble Orquesta Aragón took the stage before a packed house at Mayne Stage on Friday night. There was a brief and subdued off stage announcement (“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, direct from Cuba, Orquesta Aragón.”) and then 10 middle-aged and quite unassuming gentlemen confidently strolled onstage and quietly got ready to play. After a brief musical introduction – something I take to be the Aragón theme song – they got down to business for well over an hour of glorious music-making spanning their historic 75-year career.

A little bit of everything from those 75 years could be heard. There was danzón from the early years, syncopated semi-classical chamber music gently evoking an age of tropical elegance. A good chunk of time was spent on the music they are best known for, the son and cha cha that, along with the mambo, took the world by storm in the 1950s. Make no mistake, though, Orquesta Aragón is not a museum piece, frozen in time, but an ever evolving unit that continually adapted new trends like salsa and timba to their classic, violin-driven sound. So there was that, too.

The violin side has the ability to make you swoon. Beautiful songs like the bolero cha “Sentia un Nuevo Amor” make room for brief quotes of 19th century European music like Borodin’s “Gliding Dance” and Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours”. When violinist Lázaro Dagoberto González stepped to the front for an achingly romantic solo on “Bésame Mucho”, the crowd was brought first to an awed hush and then, at the song’s conclusion, a roaring ovation.

When you weren’t swooning, you were dancing. The triple-percussion threat of timbal, guiro and tumbadoras kept the energy high for the son cha and salsa numbers, playing against the violins and intertwining with the son montuno piano runs and buoyant bass. Meanwhile, front line vocalists Rafael Lay Bravo (son of the band’s leader during their heyday and their current music director) and Juan Carlos Villegas entertained with both unison vocals and soulful leads from Villegas. And, of course, there is the wonderfully fluid playing of flautist Eduardo Rubio riding nearly every song.

Photos by

They cruised through all their classic numbers, of course: “El Bodeguero”, Ven Morena”, “Pare Cochero” and more. Ah, the sweetness of that sound, the slight hesitation in the rhythm that swings ever so insistently. There wasn’t much room to dance in the packed venue, but believe me, a lot of people found a way. Uptempo son cha numbers like “Así son Boncó” and “A Gozar la Vida” sealed the deal.

A poignant, yet celebratory moment came about two-thirds of the way into the show. In 1999, Aragón invited the great Puerto Rican singer Cheo Feliciano to record “Son Al Son” with them for their La Charanga Eterna album. Cheo died in an auto accident the day before Friday’s concert, but for Aragón, this was not an occasion for some maudlin moment of silence. Instead, they called on the audience to applaud ‘loud enough to be heard in Puerto Rico’ as they dedicated a performance of Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández’ “Cachita” to Cheo. We did our best. Readers from San Juan can tell us if we succeeded.

All in all, it was a pretty incredible evening, but perhaps the most remarkable thing was the easy and almost relaxed energy coming off the stage. That may sound like a contradiction, but it’s not. Confidence radiates from every band member, thus removing the need to for them to show off and allowing them to just do what they were born to do (that’s fairly literal – several of the members are second or even third generation) with consummate skill and grace. The evening closed much the same way it began, with the Aragón theme followed by an encore of “Ven Morena”, sending everyone home with satisfied smiles.

Author Don Macica is a marketing consultant to the performing arts community and a contributing writer to several online publications. When not traveling, he lives a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. He is the author of Border Radio, a blog about music, migration and cultural exchange.

Orquesta Aragón Live at Mayne Stage – Friday, April 18th

By Don Macica.

Depending on who you talk to, people credit either Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colon or Mon Rivera with swapping out charanga’s signature flute and violins for horns, specifically trombones, in going about inventing what would become popularly known as salsa. And, indeed, once that happened, the heyday of the charanga sound was over. There’s been a small revival in recent years, and U.S. bands like Orquesta La Moderna Tradición work to keep the sound alive.  But there is only one original, continually working Cuban band that’s been doing it all along, and that is Orquesta Aragón.

El Bodeguero, Tres Lindas Cubanas, El Maletero… the list of all-time classics goes on and on. Yet, as noted, these are not dusty relics of the past, but  a mid-career sampling from a group that was formed in 1939 and has amassed an astounding repertoire of over 700 songs. The group continues to tour, record and replenish its ranks with younger members, periodically releasing terrific new music like 1997’s Cha Cha Charanga,  1999’s La Charanga Eterna and 2001’s En Route.  They toured the U.S. regularly in the late 90’s when the Buena Vista Social Club-fueled appetite for all things Cuban was at its peak, but then Bush-era politics slammed the door on cultural exchange with our island neighbor, and it became very difficult for Cuban artists to come to the States (and vice-versa). Things have improved recently, but as far as I know, this is Orquesta Aragón’s first visit to Chicago since they blew the roof off the Martin Theater at Ravinia in 2000.


I’ll put it bluntly. If you are any kind of fan of Afro-Latin music, this concert is simply not to be missed, not only for its historical importance, but also because the band is still working its ass off to make sure you have a good time. And dance.

Sound Culture presents Orquesta Aragón at Mayne Stage, Friday, April 18, 7:30 & 10:00 PM. Tickets at

Don Macica is a marketing consultant to the performing arts community and a contributing writer to several online publications. When not traveling, he lives a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. He is the author of Border Radio, a blog about music, migration and cultural exchange.

Luisa Maita at Mayne Stage – Review

Luisa Maita 027c

By Don Macica.

When Lero-Lero, Liusa Maita’s one and only album, came out in 2010, she was one of several São Paulobased musicians beginning to attract international attention. Given that metropolis’s gritty reputation, it’s understandable that there is a more urban edge to many of these artists, and Maita has said as much in interviews, referring to the stress, but also the energy, of living there.  Lero-Lero, though, is a beautifully sultry and mostly acoustic gem, deftly incorporating several regional Brazilian rhythms into its songs and arrangements, then garnishing them with subtle electronics.   At the time, NPR hailed Maita as the “new voice of Brazil”.

Having now enjoyed Luisa Maita in concert four times, I feel that the gentle quality of that record was a conscious decision to make sure that the album sounded “Brazilian” enough to meet marketplace expectations. Or maybe it was just a way to say no to the stress. In concert, her sound has always been tougher, leaner and more electric. Like the Tropicalia stars of the late 1960’s, Maita’s ears are open to a global array of sounds and styles. I last saw Maita in 2012 (also at Mayne Stage, thank you David Chavez and Sound Culture  for the repeat presentations) and at that time I felt that she was an artist in transition, still touring behind Lero-Lero but trying to figure out what to do next and live up to the “new voice” expectations, debuting a few new songs that sounded like works in progress.  As I wrote then in a review for Arte y Vida Chicago, she seemed “determined not to get placed in any ‘Girl from Ipanema’ box.”

Maita came out confident this time around, starting off the show with three brand new songs, the first of which was sung in English. From there she went on to material from Lero-Lero, all of it freshened with concise arrangements that took advantage of the band’s considerable strengths.  The instrumentation remains basic: guitar-bass-drums plus some electronic beats piloted by the drummer. The sound is lean as ever, but funk and jazz have comfortably worked their way into the mix, joining the Brazilian rhythms and rock edge.  More new songs followed, most in Portuguese but a few in English as well. Maita’s voice can still do sultry, but mostly she comes across much stronger than that. Her voice is usually the last sound you hear at the end of a song. Those songs are short and to the point, Maita and her band powering through, unencumbered by any distractions, just melody, rhythm and forward motion. There are no crowd-pleasing moves, no showing off – the songs are everything. (This isn’t to say that Maita ignores the audience. Her sincerity comes through in her between song comments, and she’s very quick to thank the crowd for their applause, of which there was much.)

Like she did two years ago, Maita opened and closed her show with subtly different arrangements of the same song. Then, it was Lero-Lero’s title track. This time around, it was a new English language song that I’m going to call “Wherever You Are” because of that repeated phrase. Its first incarnation was fairly straightforward effort, with Maita anchoring herself to the microphone stand.  The second time around was a rolling polyrhythmic funk workout, something the Talking Heads might have attempted around the time of Remain in Light if they were inspired by Brazilian instead of African music.

Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too much longer for a new album.

Don Macica is a marketing consultant to the performing arts community and a contributing writer to several online publications. When not traveling, he lives a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. He is the author of Border Radio, a blog about music, migration and cultural exchange.

Review: Proyecto Libre at Constellation

We keep following Proyecto Libre, one the most sensational new ensembles in Chicago’s diverse musical panorama. Jazz violinist James Sanders presented his new ensemble Proyecto Libre at Constellation Chicago on March 7. The group, Sanders’ attempt at engaging different strands of jazz in dialogue, debuted just this past December at Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center during the Afro-Caribbean Improvised Music Festival. The Constellation show was only their second performance in front of an audience, but it’s clear that the members have spent a considerable time getting to know one another during the interim.

Sanders is probably best known as the leader of Conjunto, a Latin jazz ensemble whose repertoire ranges from Afro-Cuban classics a la Buena Vista Social Club to Latinized takes on the 70s fusion supergroup Weather Report. At the same time, Sanders has spent a lot of time collaborating with the avant-garde free improvisation wing of Chicago’s jazz scene as a member of Dee Alexander’s Evolution Ensemble, the Harrison Bankhead Sextet, and his own Velvet Trio, named after the much-missed free jazz shrine Velvet Lounge.

With Proyecto Libre, Sanders has invited key musicians from both sides of the aisle to join together and explore the commonalities between their musical vocabularies. Their Segundo Ruiz debut was impressive in terms of sheer musicianship, but on balance, the avant-garde wing dominated as the Afro-Latin element probed the edges looking for ways to add that “Latin tinge”. There were sparks to be sure, especially when conguero Jean Leroy and drummer Avreaayl Ra would lock into a groove.

Photo by Laura Hamm
Photo by Laura Hamm

At Constellation, Leroy was comfortably assertive. If you think of musical collaboration as a conversation, Leroy was less shy about his point of view, making huge contributions from the outset, and the entire group (besides Leroy and Ra, the quartet consists of bassist Joshua Abrams and Sanders) felt much more in sync with each other, easily picking up the threads started by one member or the other and spinning them out fluently. In contrast to their debut, which featured three distinct compositional starting points, the Constellation show was a single hour-long performance that ebbed and flowed according to the inclinations of each member as they introduced new ideas.

Rhythmically, there were intimations of rumba, danzon and bomba  just below the surface, but because Leroy’s Afro-Latin mastery was so tightly integrated into Ra’s polyrhythmic swing, it didn’t imitate Latin jazz, but instead made the aforementioned Latin tinge an equal part of the whole. Bassist Abrams was right between them, alternately supporting the groove or prodding it into a different direction. Meanwhile, Sanders used his violin both as a solo and rhythmic instrument, plucking or bowing as the spirit called him. By the end of the evening, people were actually dancing to this stuff, a remarkable if not completely unlikely development, given that the process at work was free improvisation.

The root is Africa, but at heart, this is American music, part of a continuing story that’s been playing out for over 500 years. Sanders has hinted that he wants to tinker with the structure some more and see how that changes the conversation. It will be an interesting discussion to follow.

Proyecto Libre’s next show is April 25 at Elastic Arts.

By Luis Valladares

Vivita y coleando…La Salsa en el Día Nacional 2014


El pasado jueves, 13 de marzo el equipo de producción de “Alive and Kicking: La Historia de Chamaco Ramírez” partió rumbo a Puerto Rico y Nueva York con dos fines principales:

En primer lugar era importante grabar las últimas entrevistas del documental. El Dr. Angel Quintero Rivera (PR), Chocolate Armenteros, Gilberto “Pulpo” Colón, Viktor Valentín y José “Cheíto” Rojas (NY) figuran entre las últimas entrevistas que se unieron al proyecto durante una última semana de filmación, buscando pistas y encontrando joyas en el camino. Nuestro segundo objetivo era hacer acto de presencia en el Día Nacional de la Salsa, a celebrarse el domingo 16 de marzo en el Estadio Hiram Bithorn de San Juan.

Desde temprano el domingo vimos a la gente apoyando el proyecto con sus camisas oficiales de Chamaco.
Desde temprano el domingo vimos a la gente apoyando el proyecto con sus camisas oficiales de Chamaco.

Hagan clic aquí para obtener su t-shirt oficial y ayudarnos a terminar el documental.

Allí pudimos compartir con un sinnúmero de salseros de todos los rincones del mundo, quienes nos sorprendieron por su conocimiento y admiración hacia la figura de Chamaco Ramírez. Este viaje nos ayudó, como ningún otro, a tomar el pulso del público salsero y confirmar que el interés en el proyecto es real y que los salseros de Venezuela, Colombia, México, Perú y Panamá entre otros muchos países representados, esperan con entusiasmo ver el producto final de nuestro trabajo para documentar la historia de uno de los improvisadores más bravos que ha dado el género.

La nueva generación salsera estuvo bien representada por la orquesta San Juan Habana, que contó con la participación de Roberto Roena, al igual que la poderosa Orquesta de Moncho Rivera. Hace unos meses Moncho Rivera nos dio su perspectiva sobre Chamaco en una excelente entrevista. Tanto Moncho, como su primo Ismael Rivera Jr. participaron en nuestro documental. La familia Rivera tenía que estar presente si se va a hablar de soneros y pregoneros, claro está.

Cabe mencionar la importancia de seguir dándole espacio a las orquestas que traen sangre nueva al género y lo mantienen vigente. Por este medio pongo mi voto para que Pirulo y la Tribu sea la próxima orquesta nueva que veamos en el Día Nacional de la Salsa 2015. Después de ver a Pirulo tocar en Marimba el sábado antes del Día Nacional, confirmé lo que nos había contado César Colón Montijo (lean su sabrosa reseña en 80 grados) sobre este nuevo talento de la salsa boricua. Invito a otros a unirse a este pedido: Pirulo y la Tribu para el Día Nacional 2015.

El Día Nacional de la Salsa fue una verdadera fiesta de pueblo que rompió todas las expectativas de asistencia. Se calcula que había cerca de 40,000 personas celebrando lo que hace tiempo se ha convertido en el día “internacional” de la salsa. El que diga que la salsa está muerta debió darse la vuelta por el Estadio Hiram Bithorn. El programa prometía mucho, con presentaciones estelares y reuniones de agrupaciones clásicas sin precedentes. Siempre es emocionante bailar los clásicos del Gran Combo de Puerto Rico y presenciar un merecido homenaje a su trayectoria musical. Sin duda este era un acto principal.

Sin embargo, para mí los platos fuertes fueron esas presentaciones más raras que sólo se podrían hacer realidad en este escenario. Me refiero a la oportunidad de ver a Oscar de León cantando los clásicos de la legendaria Dimensión Latina junto a su amigo y también exintegrante de dicha agrupación, el Niño de Trastalleres, Andy Montañez. Hay algo, una fórmula inexplicable que mantiene a estos dos astros iluminados y cantando con la misma intensidad que lo hacían en antaño. No hay accidente de la vida que pueda con estos dos vozarrones de la salsa de ayer, de hoy y de siempre. Se abrazaron, se lo gozaron, se lo bailaron hasta abajo…Ni el ajorado Búho, ni los que tenían la dificilísima tarea de mantener el horario pudieron pararlos.

Igualmente fue un gustazo ver a Pichie Pérez, quien recientemente se ha desvinculado de la Sonora Ponceña, en una memorable reunión con otros dos cantantes de La Terrífica: Mannix Martínez y Hector Tricoche. Pudimos también compartir con nuestro amigo Papo Santiago, salsero de Chicago que pocos saben formó parte de La Terrífica en calidad de saxofón barítono a principios de los 80.

El gran trompetista y arreglista Luis Perico Ortiz se robó el show con el que fue su cantante durante la segunda mitad de la década de los ochenta: “el más que canta”, Domingo Quiñones. Fue realmente emotivo verlos fundirse en un abrazo antes de comenzar el set que incluyó éxitos de los discos La vida en broma (1985), In Tradition (1986) y Perico (1987).


Domingo y Perico
Domingo Quiñones y Luis Perico Ortiz

Otra sorpresa fue ver a los veteranos demostrando que los años no les han pesado, como fue el caso de Meñique (80) y Justo Betancourt (73), quienes pusieron a la gente a gozar con sus inigualables estilos. De estos dos, fue Meñique el que impresionó más con el hit “Niña y señora”, aunque Justo no dejó a nadie indiferente con su guapería en el tema “Pa’ bravo yo”.

Ambiente en el Día Nacional de la Salsa. Salseros apoyan el proyecto.
Ambiente en el Día Nacional de la Salsa. Salseros apoyan el proyecto.


Solo los nombres mencionados hasta el momento serían suficientes para satisfacer al más exigente de los salseros . Sin embargo, no podemos terminar sin mencionar la presencia del rey del bajo, Bobby Valentín, quien no sólo trajo los clásicos que hizo famosos con cantantes  como Johnny Vázquez y el gran Marvin Santiago (entre otros), sino que compartió un ratito con la producción de Alive and Kicking: La Historia de Chamaco Ramírez, mostrando su apoyo total al proyecto. Lo mismo hicieron Justo Betancourt, Pupy Cantor, Johnny Salsa, Roberto Roena y tantos otros que nos han tendido la mano en este largo camino.


Codirector y director de fotografía Eduardo Cintrón buscando las mejores tomas del ambiente en el Día Nacional de la Salsa
Codirector y director de fotografía Eduardo Cintrón buscando las mejores tomas del ambiente en el Día Nacional de la Salsa

El Día Nacional de la Salsa marcaba solo la mitad del camino de este viaje que nos llevó después a Nueva York, donde pudimos conversar largo y tendido con Chocolate Armenteros (trompeta de Alive and Kicking), Gilberto “Pulpo” Colón (pianista y director musical de Hector Lavoe), Víktor Valentín (amigo de Chamaco en sus últimos años de vida) y José “Cheito” Rojas (promotor y productor de salsa del Bronx (1965-1985).

Así cerramos un viaje mágico que nos permite acercarnos más a la culminación de un documental que no solo intenta narrar la vida de Chamaco Ramírez, sino que a la vez pone en relieve la trayectoria de los que formaron parte de la etapa dorada de la salsa en Puerto Rico y Nueva York entre las décadas de 1960 y 1980.


Por Omar Torres-Kortright


Review: Proyecto Libre Debut

By Don Macica. You don’t often get to be present at the creation of something new. Art in its many forms is often about refining and expanding on ideas that were already on the table. Violinist James Sanders is a case in point. He’s classically trained, having received a performance degree from Yale University, and indeed he is a member of an orchestra. Shortly after finishing school, though, he fell in love with jazz and set his sights on learning the art of improvisation. After several years of honing his jazz chops, he honored his Dominican roots by forming the Latin jazz band Conjunto, which he still leads over a decade later. Meanwhile, the urge to explore the outer reaches of improvisation found him simultaneously collaborating with Chicago’s avant-garde on numerous projects. He sometimes pushed Conjunto in that direction as well, but they remained fundamentally a Latin jazz band, building on a sound established many years ago.


Last summer, he had a new idea.

That idea debuted Friday night at the grand re-opening of the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, a beautiful if still unfinished space in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood.  James Sanders’ Proyecto Libre combines two distinct genres that nonetheless derive from the same African root: Afro-Latin traditions and free jazz improvisation. This experiment in rhythm and melody featured two monsters of the free improv scene, drummer Avreeayl Ra and bassist Joshua Abrams. For the Latin foundation, he enlisted long time Conjunto percussionist Jean-Christophe Leroy. Into the midst of this rhythmic crucible was Sanders’ violin, which, after more than two decades of music making, was equally adept in both camps.

The high energy all female bomba y plena ensemble Las Bompleneras got the night off to a very hot start with a percussive and vocal workout of traditional Puerto Rican music, itself deeply rooted in Africa. After a brief break, Proyecto Libre took the stage.

Sanders introduced a few simply stated violin notes, which were soon joined first by the bass, then drums. The congas didn’t enter the scene for several minutes, a daring start for a show played before an audience much more familiar with salsa and merengue than jazz. Soon, though, Leroy and Ra began to feed each other rhythmic ideas as the music built in intensity while Abrams negotiated the space in between, keeping the pulse steady while also contributing melodic twists and turns. Sanders is a generous bandleader, giving his collaborators plenty of room to develop their ideas. Jazz is about listening closely and working together, a community effort, and nowhere was this more true that on Friday night, as Leroy explored all the colors at his fingertips courtesy of his many shakers and bells, and Ra, who is anchored in American blues, found himself, at least briefly, inhabited by the spirit of Tito Puente. Sanders, meanwhile, guided the music, his violin moving from serene to intense and back again with aplomb. And all of this was just the first song, a winding opus that clocked in at nearly 20 minutes, finishing with a flourish. Sanders, however, was not done with his risk taking.


Instead of keeping the energy cranked, he took the band in a spiritual direction, calling Ra out from behind his drum kit to play a meditative wood flute solo, which then intertwined with Sanders’ violin and Abram’s bass while Leroy added percussive color. It took several minutes, but the risk eventually paid off as the audience gradually quieted their chatter and entered the same spiritual space. Sanders’ rewarded them by dropping in brief quotes from Humberto Ramírez’ “A Puerto Rico” as the band slowly shifted into higher gear. Ra got back behind his drum kit and, at last, nearly 40 minutes into the show, a familiar two/three clave was established to take the crowd into danceable territory.


After a brief encore that featured a lengthy conga intro, Sanders invited members of Las Bompleneras along with several percussionists and singers to the stage for an extended paranda to celebrate the season. Leroy took over the drum kit, a space he normally occupies with Conjunto, while Ra joined the audience in dancing his way to the evening’s joyous conclusion.


On Friday night, a new idea took its first steps. Judging from the results, there is ample reason to continue the journey forward, and I hope I’ll be hearing more from Proyecto Libre.

Don Macica is a marketing consultant to the performing arts community and a contributing writer to several online publications including and When not traveling, he lives a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. He is the author of Border Radio, a blog about music, migration and cultural exchange.

Noticias del 3er Festival de Música Afrocaribeña Improvisada

Ismael Rivera Jr. – 12.11.13

Por Omar Torres-Kortright

El matrimonio entre el jazz y la música afrocaribeña ha marcado diferentes momentos de la historia musical de los Estados Unidos. Mario Bauzá, el responsable de juntar a Dizzy Gillespie con el percusionista cubano Chano Pozo a mediados de los años 40, sembró la semilla para el auge del jazz afrocubano, el movimiento salsero de los años 60 y 70 en Nueva York, y las múltiples posteriores reinterpretaciones de esta fusión. Pocos experimentos musicales disfrutan hoy de esa vigencia inagotable y repercusión internacional. Tanto el jazz latino como la salsa nacen, se nutren y evolucionan gracias a ese carácter improvisador que proviene del jazz americano, al igual que del rico folclor musical de las antillas.

El tercer Festival de Música Afrocaribeña Improvisada (Afro-Caribbean Improvised Music Festival), a llevarse a cabo del 11 al 14 de diciembre en Chicago, celebra ese elemento de improvisación que se ve en la conversación musical de los jazzistas, las inspiraciones de los soneros en la salsa y los impulsivos y cadenciosos pasos del bailador. El original concepto se llevará a escena con eventos gratuitos en el Old Town School of Folk Music y el Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis.

La iniciativa nace del homenaje anual al sonero “Annual Tribute to the Improvisational Singer”, un concierto homenaje a los improvisadores en la salsa que celebrará su décimo aniversario la noche de apertura del festival, el próximo miércoles, 11 de diciembre a las 8:30 pm en el Old Town School of Folk Music. Esa primera noche marcará el ritmo de los tres días posteriores con un homenaje al sonero mayor Ismael Rivera, cuyos clásicos serán interpretados por su hijo, Ismael Rivera Jr., acompañado por una poderosa orquesta de 11 músicos dirigida por el pianista Edwin Sánchez. Allí los bailadores podrán darse cita para disfrutar temas que se remontan hasta la época de Maelo con Cortijo y su Combo, como Quítate de la vía Perico y El negro bembón, entre muchos otros.

El festival producido por Agúzate y el Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis , continúa el jueves 12 de diciembre a las 6:30 pm con la proyección del documental sobre la vida del prolífico compositor puertorriqueño Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso titulado Sonó Sonó. La proyección de la pieza producida por el Banco Popular de Puerto Rico en 2011 y dirigida por Gabriel Coss, incluirá una conversación informal con el guionista del documental, César Colón-Montijo, quien abordará la trascendencia musical y cultural de la figura de Curet Alonso. Esta actividad tendrá una capacidad limitada a 50 personas, a fin de mantener el carácter íntimo y accesible para la conversación con Colón-Montijo. El invitado especial cursa estudios doctorales en etnomusicología en Columbia University, Nueva York, donde explora el legado de Ismael Rivera en los barrios latinoamericanos.

Extracto del documental Sonó Sonó. Incluye canción “Pa’ los caseríos” Interpretada por Ismael Rivera Jr. y Fé Cortijo con La PVC.

Ambas actividades de apertura son sumamente atractivas. Sin embargo, uno de los momentos más especiales de este festival se llevará a cabo durante la inauguración de la nueva sede del Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis, ubicado en la comunidad de Hermosa al noroeste de la ciudad. Para celebrar este magno evento el viernes 13 de diciembre a las 8:00 pm, Segundo Ruiz Belvis invitó al reconocido jazzista James Sanders. El fundador de Conjunto cuenta en su largo curriculum con presentaciones estelares en el Chicago Latin Jazz Festival y Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Avreeayl Ra, Jean-Christophe LeRoy y Joshua Abrams unirán fuerzas con el violinista de origen dominicano para presentar un nuevo concepto titulado “Proyecto Libre”. El debut de Proyecto Libre nos brindará una estética puramente improvisativa, basada en las raíces caribeñas de Sanders y su dominio del jazz, uniendo artistas de ambos géneros en un experimento musical sin precedentes en Chicago. La gran apertura del Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis contará además con una presentación previa del grupo Las Bompleneras, compuesto de algunas de las mujeres más talentosas de la escena afropuertorriqueña en Chicago.

James Sanders’ Proyecto Libre – 12.13.13


El banquete de eventos gratuitos y de carácter familiar culminará el sábado 14 de diciembre  a las 2:00 pm con una feria de coleccionistas de música afrolatina en vinilo. Este evento multimedia estará a cargo de un colectivo de especialistas en material sonoro antiguo de América Latina, compuesto por Sonorama, Agúzate y Sobremesa Supper Club. Además de poder disfrutar de la música que tocarán los DJs y coleccionistas invitados, los participantes podrán deleitarse con la presentación en vivo de Buya, una sólida agrupación local de bomba, cuyas melodiosas voces y conocimiento de los ritmos más antiguos de la isla del encanto los ha llevado a destacarse como el mejor grupo en su género en Chicago. Se espera una semana fría, pero el calor de los ritmos caribeños sin duda servirá para calentar el alma. Para reservar boletos gratis y recibir más información, visite

3er Festival de Música Afrocaribeña Improvisada.

Publicado el 29 de noviembre en sección Arte y Vida del periódico Hoy.

Un diciembre tropical en Chicago.

Por Antonio Roig.



Homenaje a Ismael Rivera con Ismael Rivera Jr.

Miércoles, 11 de diciembre de 2013

8:30 pm – Old Town School of Folk Music

4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL – GRATIS – Donación sugerida: $10


“De todas maneras Tite” – Proyección del documental Sonó Sonó

Conversatorio con César Colón-Montijo

Jueves, 12 de diciembre de 2013

6:30 pm – Old Town School of Folk Music Gallery

4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL – GRATIS


Proyecto Libre de James Sanders

Y Las Bompleneras
Gran Apertura del Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis

Viernes, 13 de diciembre de 2013

8:00 pm – Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis

4046 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL – GRATIS – Donación sugerida: $10


Feria de Coleccionistas de Discos Afrolatinos

Y presentación en vivo de Buya
Gran Apertura del Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis

Sábado, 14 de diciembre de 2013

2:00 pm – Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis

4046 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL – GRATIS









Register for the Festival’s Free Events



Since all events for the festival are free, early registration will guarantee your spot until 20 minutes before the start time of the show. Take advantage of early registration for the following events:

December 11th, 2013

Tribute to Ismael Rivera featuring Ismael Rivera Jr. 10th Annual Tribute to the Improvisational Singer

Reserve tickets

8:30 pm – Old Town School of Folk Music 4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL – FREE – $10 suggested donation

Thursday, December 12th

“De todas maneras Tite” – Film Screening of Sonó Sonó

Followed by a conversation with César Colón-Montijo

Limited Space. Reserve here. 6:30 pm – Old Town School of Folk Music – Gallery 4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL – FREE

Friday, December 13th

James Sanders’ Proyecto Libre

Opening Act by Las Bompleneras Grand Opening of Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

8:00 pm – Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center 4046 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL – FREE – $10 suggested donation Space is limited. Complete free registration here to save your space.

3rd Annual Afro-Caribbean Improvised Music Festival


Produced by Agúzate and SRBCC, Chicago’s Annual Afro-Caribbean Improvised Music Festival celebrates the art of improvisation and its many variants in Afro-Latin music. The festival is a multi-genre, multi-venue undertaking that is now in its third year.



December 11th, 2013

8:30 pm – Old Town School of Folk Music

4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL – FREE – $10 suggested donation

Reserve tickets

Tribute to Ismael Rivera featuring Ismael Rivera Jr.
10th Annual Tribute to the Improvisational Singer

The 10th Anniversary of the Annual Tribute to the Improvisational Singer is dedicated to Ismael Rivera, known by fans across the salsa world as the greatest improvisational singer to ever grace the stage. His rich repertoire, including hits that go as far back as his beginnings in the 1950s with Cortijo y su Combo will come to life through the voice of his talented son, Ismael Rivera Jr. “Ismaelito,” as he is known in the music industry, started his career in 1977 at the age of 23 with Rafael Cortijo. That same year they recorded El Sueño de Cortijo, which included the hits “Elena, Elena” and “Gotas de Veneno.” His career expands over four decades marked by recordings with the most renowned Afro-Puerto Rican musicians of all time, including Kako Bastar, Jesús Cepeda and Roberto Roena.



Thursday, December 12th

“De todas maneras Tite” – Film Screening of Sonó Sonó

followed by a conversation with César Colón-Montijo

Limited Space. Reserve here.

6:30 pm – Old Town School of Folk Music – Gallery

4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL – FREE

Catalino ‘Tite’ Curet-Alonso is the preeminent composer in salsa. Don Tite is responsible for classic recordings such as Las caras lindas, Periódico de ayer, Anacaona, Plantación Adentro and Marejada feliz, among many others canonical pieces in the history of salsa. The legacy of Curet-Alonso was documented in Sonó Sonó, the yearly christmas special produced by the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico in 2011. Featuring Roberto Roena, Cheo Feliciano, Tego Calderón, Trina Medina, Truco y Zaperoko, Lalo Rodríguez, Calle 13 and Yubairé, among other performers, this musical documentary narrates the musical and cultural transcendence of Curet-Alonso’s career, and refreshes his repertoire with new arrangements and interpretations.

The screening of the movie will be followed by a musical conversation lead by César Colón-Montijo, co-researcher and writer of the script for Sonó Sonó. Colón-Montijo is a journalist and doctorate student of ethnomusicology at Columbia University in New York. His dissertation research explores the multi-layered legacy of Ismael ‘Maelo’ Rivera in barrios throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.


Photo Nov 06, 1 13 39 PM


Friday, December 13th

James Sanders’ Proyecto Libre

Opening Act by Las Bompleneras
Grand Opening of Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

8:00 pm – Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

4046 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL – FREE – $10 suggested donation

Space is limited. Complete free registration here to save your space.

Violinist James Sanders brings a lifetime of experiences to his music. The son of a Dominican mother and U.S. born father, Sanders grew up in an ethnically mixed Chicago neighborhood. Encouraged by his mother, he began violin studies at the age of ten, culminating in a performance degree from Yale University. He formed the highly regarded Latin jazz ensemble James Sanders’ Conjunto in 2001. The group was the house band at Little Village’s Jacaranda Club for several years and has performed at the Chicago Latin Jazz Festival, SummerDance, Jazz Showcase, Velvet Lounge, Katerina’s and many more, including a 2011 headline show at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Meanwhile, Sanders maintained a parallel career as an in-demand collaborator with musicians from the AACM collective of free jazz improvisers, including Dee Alexander, Harrison Bankhead, Renee Baker and more. With Proyecto Libre, Sanders combines his Dominican roots and command of Latin jazz with a forward thinking, purely improvisational aesthetic by bringing master musicians from both genres together in a freewheeling musical experiment.

For Proyecto Libre, Sanders selected musicians that he has worked with in both camps, including Avreeayl Ra and Conjunto percussionist Jean-Christophe Leroy. Ra’s career began with such legendary jazz masters as Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra. The Chicago Tribune said, “Avreeayl Ra shapes the music-making swirling around him with remarkable precision and poise… an indispensable innovator.”  Leroy is a long-time practitioner of Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, and West African music combined with an upbringing in Western classical music and jazz studies.

Holding down the center is bassist and composer Joshua Abrams. His ubiquity in Chicago’s improvised music scene makes him one of the most hard-working, creative, and prolific bass players around. Sanders recently performed on Abrams’ score for the film The Trials of Muhammad Ali.


Photo Nov 06, 1 06 01 PM (HDR)

Saturday, December 14th

Afro-Latin Record Collectors’ Fair and Exhibit
Grand Opening of Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

2:00 pm – Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

4046 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL – FREE

More than a Record Collectors’ Fair, the festival finale will be a multi-arts celebration of Afro-Latin music and culture. It will include an art showcase, sets by Chicago’s top vinyl collectors and DJs and a live performance by Buya. Curated by Sonorama and Sobremesa Supper Club.













Concierto Oficial Alive and Kicking Llega a Puerto Rico


Viernes, 25 de octubre de 2013 || La Respuesta || 1600 Fernández Juncos Ave. ||

9:00 pm – $10 por adelantado y $15 en la entrada ||

Pupy Cantor interpreta los clásicos de su mayor influencia en la música en el 1er Concierto Oficial de “Alive and Kicking: La Historia de Chamaco Ramírez” en Puerto Rico. Lo acompañará su orquesta “Salsa Libre” con invitados especiales. El evento incluirá un avance exclusivo del documental. Los fondos recaudados serán destinados a la etapa final de producción del documental.

Todos los donantes de la etapa inicial del documental (Indiegogo y estarán en la lista de invitados especiales y tendrán entrada gratis.

Boletos disponibles aquí

Este evento se ha logrado gracias al generoso auspicio de:



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