(Left to Right - Matthew Gonzalez, Jonathan Troncoso, Danny ?, ?, Bembesito, Norka, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)
I was in NY over the weekend visiting Willie and basically catching up. Before I took the trip up we had decided to hang out at La Pregunta on Friday night to catch Ilu Aye. Neither of us had ever seen them live...we were in for a treat. I got to Willie's place from Maryland at about 7pm on Friday and we decided to just chill at his house until the time came to head out to La Pregunta. Jose (Rivera) met us at about 9pm or so and soon after we headed out. Neither of us had ever been to this spot so I am glad to say that it was definitely a cool place to hang out. There was almost a "familia type vibe" in that most people knew each other and were obviously there to support the guys. Parking was a little bit of a mission but I soon found a spot about a block away from La Pregunta which is conveniently located right across the street from City College.
Walking into the place I saw two Junior congas, a Gon Bop, and 3 barriles (Jose told me that they were made by Joe Santiago) so I knew there was going to be some bomba and rumba. I spotted some balsie drums to the corner and a guira, so I knew eventually they would go into Dominican palo and or salve. They started it out with a bomba which made my arm hair stand up. Me, Jose and Willie were looking at each other like....DAMN!!! They started out with Matthew Gonzalez (16 yrs old!!!) playing a sick primo, Jonathan Troncoso playing buleador and Fidel Tavares playing the other buleador. This young cat Matthew was marcando on that primo like a vet. He is defintely one to watch out for, he plays timbales and percussion for Zon del Barrio (click the link to see the bio), and did I mention that he dances a mean bomba as well?
(Matthew Gonzalez, Fidel Tavares, Jonathan Troncoso, Danny, Bembesito, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)
So they did a great set of bomba's with Osvaldo "Bembesito" Lora singing the first couple and Norka Nadal singing as well. There was some great dancing by Matthew, Jonathan, Julia Gutierrez among others. I was glad to see Julia there since I knew that eventually when she did dance a bomba, heads would be taking notes, because she is that good.
(Matthew on primo, Jonathan and Felix on buleadores)
After that bomba set they went into bembe (with congas). Jonathan has probably played the best caja that I have ever seen in person, and he makes it look so effortless. Around this time Felix (Sanabria), whom I am glad came through was sitting at are table with this look of proudness on his face. See what you may not know as that many of these younger guys (i.e. Jonathan, Nicky, Bembesito, Camilo), play with and are Felix's godchildren. It was cool to see Felix there supporting them. Soon after they went into rumba and it was on. Felix got on quinto with Jonathan and Danny on tumbador and tres golpes respectively and lit the place on fire. Soon after Jose (Rivera) was called up and played a mean tumbador to a guaguanco and tres golpes to a columbia. Camilo Molina was on tumbador for the columbia and MAN, que ibiono. Willie had a running joke that night and kept telling Jonathan, "Hey Jonathan! Now play a fast one!"... These guys were playing with such energy and excitement that it was hard to stay in ones seat (which really is the whole idea to this music).
(Fidel on quinto, Jose on tumbador, Camilo on tres dos)
(Felix Sanabria on quinto, Jonathan on tumbador, Danny on tres dos, Matthew on guagua, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)
(Fidel on quinto, Jose on tumbador, Camilo on tres dos, Matthew on guagua, Photo Credit: Ralph Duque)
The guys then went directly into Dominican Palo, just when we thought it couldn't get more exciting.
After the last set we went to Cuchifritos to grab a bite after attempts at going to El Malecon were foiled. I dropped off Jose and Willie and headed to Queens, but not before experiencing some great bomba, rumba, and palo, all in the same place!
On Sunday I hooked up with Willie to check out Zon del Barrio play at the Harlem Meer. What a great show with David Fernandez on keys, Yomo Toro on cuatro, Aurora Flores and Sammy Ayala on Vocals, Orestes on tumbador and Matthew on timbal. Alfie Alvarado (whom I finally got to meet) was with camera in hand as usual (more info on her later). It's hard to believe that Orestes and Matthew are 19 and 16 respectively. As Willie says, "the future is in good hands."
(Nelson Matthew Gonzalez, Photo Credit: Martin Cohen)We went to the show with the hopes of getting a rumba going afterwords. I called Barry Cox earlier and I think he was getting Max to come with him (these guys sing a mean duo). Willie called a couple of his people and we had hoped to rumbiar with some of the cats from Zon as well. It turned out that people didn't show, the Zon cats had other commitments, and before it was too late I called Barry to let them know it wasn't happening and he hit the CP rumba on 72nd. It was a dissapointment but what can you do? On the way to drop Willie off we stopped at Patsy's to grab a slice and forget our troubles.
(Alfie Alvarado w/ camera not too far away, Photo Credit: Martin Cohen, this was taken at her benefit, not the Zon del Barrio gig)
All in all it was a great weekend.