PICTURES

CHICO ALVAREZ
and AFRO- CARIBE

at The Village Underground

A Night with live Cuban salsa at the heart of The West Village.
Discover the roots of salsa with the most ORIGINAL Cuban Salsa party in New York capable of transplanting you to the "Island" for the night.

Chico Alvarez is a rarity, a native New Yorker who grew up in Cuba and came back to New York just in time to witness the cross-fertilization of black American music with popular Cuban rhythms and the subsequent rise of musical hybrids such as Boogaloo, Latin Soul and Latin Rock. This multi-faceted musician, vocalist, bandleader and graphic artist is also the producer, host & moderator of the weekly music program "The New World Gallery", heard weekly on listener-supported WBAI since 1989. He was also heard for a number of years on WADO 1280 AM, Sunday evenings from 11 pm to 5 am Sundays.
Latino Con Jazz was a radical departure for WADO, a traditionally ethnic radio station.
Although the program aired in Spanish, the type of music that Chico featured attracted a wide cross-section of New Yorkers and urbanites. He conducted his shows in much the same manner that he conducts his band. Countless listeners from diverse ethnic backgrounds, followed Chico into the new format on the am dial. Many were old listeners from WBAI, but there was a new constituency that was
drawn to this format. They were old listeners of WADO, mostly Hispanic who were becoming aware of Afro-Cuban Jazz and other forms of Latin Jazz. The show was cancelled after the station was pressured by radical groups who protested that he was playing too many Cuban artists. He considers himself a bi-cultural and bi-lingual person, who loves all types of music and who doesn‚t believe in mixing politics with art. Prior to his programs most Latin Jazz shows were done in English.
After 14 years on the air, he continues to promote the bi-lingual format while stressing the importance of using correct Spanish on the air.
Chico Alvarez‚ current musical aggregation, known collectively as THE AFRO-CARIBE BAND, not only offers great Afrocuban Jazz, but they also cover completely that spectrum by featuring artists of Afro-Hispanic background (often referred to as Latinos), Brazilians, Africans, West Indians, South Americans and even Europeans. Chico has been known to also include in hisformats (both on radio and in live performances) some very straight-ahead Jazz. As hard as it has become to find work in New York for such a group, you can often savour Chico‚s talents as a vocalist and bandleader through his
many appearances throughout the city. His band is a favorite at Many Clubs playing Cuban Salsa in NYC. He is in the process of recording his 8th record, and has also lectured extensively on the roots of Salsa at various universities and colleges. Chico Alvarez, a voice to reckon with indeed, for he is very outspoken and takes this whole business of radio very seriously.
The AFRO-CARIBE BAND was formed in 1995 by vocalist CHICO ALVAREZ and former members of the group known as "Nosotros" is a living bridge between the rootsy sound of Cuban music and the more urbanized music of New York City. Its members are some of the best soneros and rumberos that have ever walked this planet.
In Mr. Alvarez‚ own words: "It was inevitable that these musicians should eventually come together. It had to happen. The horn players are marvelously gifted soloists who understand that their contribution to the overall sound depends very heavily on the support that the rhythm section supplies. And the percussionists, who are at the core of that sound, understand that keeping that groove is of the utmost importance. They know when to play and when not to overplay. This facet of their collective talent comes from years of participation in park jams and bembés. And they didn‚t just come into the band to jam or to show off their abilities, these polyrhythmic geniuses came to play! They proved in
the end that to be totally creative, you must discard all forms of commercialism and play from that certain something that comes from way down deep within......that raw essence we call soul! Oh they had the credentials all right, for they had learned from the masters and they lived among the people as
friends and brothers. They knew the hardships and the sorrows, they hung out ithe parks and jammed, they became part of the dance hall circuit. They totally understood the importance of the dancer, as a participant, and not just as a spectator. They had indeed payed their dues. And they knew their clave, which is of the utmost importance! They went from the fiercest rumba to the most subtle sounds of the són. And not once.....not once did the intensity of these brothers subside. It seemed like an eternal flame......a fire cooking underneath me that drove me to heights I never thought I could groove on. And when it was all over, I was left with the feeling of being bestowed with a precious gift. A gift that lives on and on. They were (and still are) the first representatives of the latest musical innovation, or should I say evolution in Cuban music. An evolution that actually began right here in New York, not in Cuba. Theirs is a true crossover of Afrocaribbean cultures that seem to be traveling on the same wave length when it comes to making music. I will not let their talent be undermined simply because they are not from another part of the world. The trend these days seems toward showcasing musicians and artists from abroad, aparently in an effort to give the music some validity, or even perhaps authenticity. They have somehow forgotten that New York is still the melting pot of the world. We must begin to showcase our own if there is to be a real cultural interchange with Cuba and the rest of the world. Let us recognize our own!
Last year Mr. Alvarez was nominated by the LATIN JAZZ USA Awards Committee and received the CHICO O‚FARRIL LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD, in recognition for his outstanding contribution to the musical art-form known as Latin Jazz. Along with musician Ray Santos and journalist Max Salazar, Mr. Alvarez joined the ranks of such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Paquito D‚Rivera, Gato Barbieri, Tito Puente, Marco Rizo, Mario Bauza, Mongo Santamaria, Stanley Turrentine, Astor Piazzola, Ray Barretto, Astrud Gilberto, Nestor Torres, Rene Touzet, China Valles, Eddie Palmieri and of course Chico O‚Farril, in whose name the award is now given. The names of all the recipient-honorees was publicly announced here in New York City at a buffet-dinner held at ASCAP, 1 Lincoln Plaza, on November 7th, at 7 pm. The actual awards were presented on November 24th, 2001 at 8 pm during the concert "50 Years of Mambo in the USA" at Town Hall Theatre, 123 West 43rd St., also in New York City.
Also in the year 2001 Mr. Alvarez was awarded a Special Recognition Award from the International Latin Music Hall of Fame at Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture, at a concert-ceremony on April 4, 2001.
In December of 1999 he was the recipient of the First Place Award for Excellence in Radio Arts and Entertainment from the New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ). Mr. Alvarez received his award at the annual Scholarship and Awards Dinner at the Sheraton Hotel in New York City. NYABJ bestowed Mr. Alvarez the award specifically for his special two hour radio documentary "Jazz Meets Latin / Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo.
It was the second time that Mr. Alvarez received recognition for his weekly program,The New World Gallery, which had been airing since 1989 on member-supported WBAI in New York City.
Mr. Alvarez, who pioneered the concept of a multi-mixed-genre on radio, received the Silver Reel Local Entertainment Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) during their 50th annual conference, held in March of 1998 in San Francisco. The documentary "Jazz Meets
Latin / Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo" was originally broadcast on WBAI in December of 1998.
In addition, he received a special letter of recognition from the government of Peru for his show entitled "The Soul of Black Peru", which aired in 1998.
"Jazz Meets Latin" was part of a series that Mr. Alvarez developed, which explored the rich and prodigious musical exchange that took place between African-American and Latin-American musicians throughout this century not only in New York, but in other urban centers of this country as well. The series examined the synthesis of two musical traditions which shared common origins; American Jazz, developed by African-Americans at the turn of the twentieth century in the port city of New Orleans and the Són, developed by Cubans in the port city of Havana during approximately the same period. It is a long and complicated story, and the end result has been the marriage of these two forms. The basic elements of the Cuban Són can be found in just about every type of music and its impact has been felt all around the world. When this music fused profusely with elements from the Jazz idiom, they gave rise to other musical forms, the most popular of these being the Mambo and the Cha Cha Chá. These two very popular dance forms have for decades been the basic ingredients....the foundation, if you will, of both Latin Jazz and Salsa. No other dance forms have embraced the jazz concept as well as these two, which is why so many musicologists agree that Latin Jazz is the end result of a perfect marriage between Afro-Cuban rhythms and Jazz harmonies. When you add the sensuous Bolero, with its undeniable Spanish tinge, and the 6/8 Bembé, the most purely African in the Cuban pantheon of rhythms, you have the basic ingredients in a recipe for soul sauce (which by the way is the title of one of Diz and Chano‚s many collaborations).
This award winning special focused primarily upon the music composed and performed by the legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and the master Cuban percussionist, singer and dancer Luciano Pozo Gonzalez, known as "Chano Pozo". Their collaboration was as key moment in the evolution of Jazz and their brief relationship changed forever the musical landscape and the popular
culture of North America. While Diz lived a long and fruitful life, Chano was tragically killed at the early age of 33. Nonetheless, during his brief life, he left an indelible mark on the history of Cuban music and holds an undisputed place in the annals of Jazz. Theirs is only part of the story, and one which doesn‚t end in 1948. Nor does it begin there either. Mr. Alvarez has also produced various programs of special interest that are noteworthy, such as "Montuno Meets The Blues", "The Guitar; A Legacy Of Two Worlds" and "Latino Con Soul". All three programs focus on the transculturation process as it was experienced in New York City and other major urban centers throughout the country. Unfortunately, few Jazz or Latin music programs explore the various periods of cultural interchange that ocurred between these ethnic groups, nor the subsequent encounters between musical genuises such as Gillespie and Pozo. "THE NEW WORLD GALLERY" airs on WBAI Sundays from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. It is entirely produced, hosted and engineered by Mr. Alvarez, and caters to an ethnically diverse audience which is only now becoming aware of Afro-Cuban Jazz and other forms of Latin Jazz. Prior to this program most shows specializing in this music were done in English. Mr. Alvarez has chosen a bi-lingual format. Apart from the great music, he also concerns himself with putting forth much valuable information about the recordings themselves, both from historical as well as sociological perspectives.
Recently, Mr. Alvarez celebrated his 35th year as a performer and his fifty fifth birthday at a Club in Manhattan, along with his ten piece orchestra and the participation of some of New York's most celebrated musicians, such as Chocolate Armenteros, Pupi Insua, Little Johnny Rivero, Pedrito Martinez, Angelo Vaillant, Candido Camero, Ralph Irrizary and Edmar Castañeda.
Chico is also affiliated with the masterful rumba group known as QUINTO MAYOR, led by his conga drummer GENE GOLDEN, and they are often featured together on the same bill. It makes for a wonderful blend of Cuban Salsa, Rumba, Son and Latin Jazz.


Do you need more info about this Band or about La Rumba? Please contact us by e-mail:
gardenia@larumba.net or call Daniela at (917) 482-9540.

 

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