Redwood City’s 7th annual Salsa Festival took place on Saturday, Sept. 27, under warm sunny skies. The marvelous free downtown event featured multiple stages showcasing Latin, salsa, and Afro Cuban Jazz music. We music fans are blessed to live in the Bay Area, where such a variety and quality of music happens every day. Saturday’s performing lineup included: Orquesta Soboriche, Ray Obiedo, Brian Andres, Edgardo Cambon and Sexteto LaTiDo, VibraSON, Ed Johnson & Novo Tempo.
For this year, the Redwood City Salsa Festival added the new Reggae Stage to the spicy cultural and musical mix. The two performing groups were home-grown here in the SF Bay Area. Local favorites Native Elements had members who grew up in Daly City and South San Francisco, and The Servants hailed from Hayward. The festival provided plenty of activities for all ages. Among them, adults enjoyed Tequila Tasting, while the kids happily and safely scampered at the Children’s Play Area with its large colorful bounce house. Professional and amateur salsa chefs competed in the tongue-melting Salsa Tasting & Competition, with judging by the public. There were abundant choices for restaurants, beverages, and shops inside the 11-block festival area. Redwood City’s Cal train station was a short walk from the festival.
The Courthouse Square Salsa Stage in front of the city ‘s historic Courthouse building was filled with flowing salsa music and dancing. The huge crowd enjoyed listening and moving to the Latin rhythms of La Edgardo Cambon and Sexteto LaTiDo (latido translates as “heartbeat”). The popular group was started by Mr. Edgardo Cambon–bandleader, vocalist, and conguero (conga drummer)–in 2003.
At the Latin Jazz Stage, Brian Andres and the Afro Cuban Jazz Cartel performed songs from their second CD, San Francisco, released in 2013. When Mr. Andres told us that their next selection was from Weather Report, I was anticipating the huge hit “Birdland,” or maybe “Boogie Woogie Waltz.” I was pleasantly shocked when they started into the jazz-fusion classic, “Black Market,” the title track from Weather Report’s 1976 album Black Market. This caliente arrangement was infused with strong Afro Cuban percussive beats. Bassist Aaron Germain was featured on this selection. The distinctive bass line intro resonated immediately, and the horns were blowing with fierce authority. Both Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius–revered members of the legendary jazz-fusion band Weather Report–would have approved of this fresh Latin jazz-flavored version of “Market.” Mr. Andres and the ACJC played with a real comfortable energy throughout the entire set. After the show, I asked Brian why he picked this particular track. He replied that he liked it and clearly remembered where he was the first time he heard this Weather Report song.
Renowned Bay Area guitarist Ray Obiedo and Mistura Fina brought their fiery brand of Brazilian and Afro Cuban jazz to the festival. Mr. Obiedo’s driving, funky jazz guitar playing worked well with Sandy Cressman’s vocals. The group added extra Caribbean seasoning to their set with steel pans (drums). The smaller and more intimate Jazz Salsa Stage had people literally dancing in the street while others tapped toes from benches also placed in the street. Born and raised in the “middle of Richmond,” Mr. Obiedo has proudly represented his East Bay heritage here and around the world with his touring band. The song “Criss Cross” had people swaying to the band’s jazzy dance rhythms. The standard “Vera Cruz” was invigorated with a driving Latin jazz sting.
Redwood City’s Salsa Festival celebrated the rich Latin, salsa, and Afro Cuban Jazz music and culture of the San Francisco Bay Area. Put this one on your To Do list for next year. For more information on the Redwood City Salsa Festival, go to www.redwoodcity.org/events/index
Ray Obiedo & Mistura Fina
Personnel: Ray Obiedo (guitar), Sandy Cressman (vocalist), Alex Murzyn (reeds), Bob Karty (pianist), Dave Belove (bassist), Derek Rolando (percussionist), Phil Thompson (drums/ steel pan).
Set List: Criss Cross | Rio | Vera Cruz | Sticks & Stones | St Thomas | Deixa | Lujon | Onda O Rio | Sabor | Mas Que Nada (Encore)
Brian Andreas and the Afro Cuban Jazz Cartel
Personnel: Javier Cabanillas (congas), Aaron Germain (bass), Patrick Morehead (piano), Henry Hung (trumpet), Tony Peebles (saxophones), Brian Andres (drums)
Set List: Toffi | Ixtapa | Estampa Cubana | Black Market | Nothing But Trouble | Roasted to Perfection | Higashi Nakano | Song For Chano | Bugs on a Windshield (Encore)