Monday, May 21, 2007

May 2007 Sabroso@Interval Café, Sheffield

This was the the first time for us back on stage since the Donut gig, and with a significantly changed line-up:

  • Dan has moved from rhythm guitar to timbales and is doing a fine job;
  • Mike joined us just a couple of months ago, and is a great trombonist whose sense of humour comes across when he plays;
  • Nathan has emerged from behind the timbales to take on vocals (lead and backing) and hand percussion;
  • Wib joined us as a direct result from the Donut gig and is our new conguero;
  • I've also stepped out from behind the congas and am fulfilling the same role as Nathan.
I think it's great for many reasons:

  • Dan and Wib have an understanding of each other's musicianship based on years of playing live together;
  • Mike brings a wealth of experience of playing soul, jazz and blues which is something we very much needed;
  • there is more opportunity for interaction in the melodic arragements, which augments the montuno section of our songs;
  • the rhythmic 'thickness' of our sound has been increased with both Nathan and I playing hand percussion;
  • having two lead singers with different vocal ranges makes a wider range of songs possible;
  • we have a high level of redundancy, meaning we can take on more gigs; and
  • (selfishly) I can have a rest from singing during a set.
Woo-Hoo! This signals the dawning of a brave new world. Long live Cuatro de Diciembre!

Okay, as with any change in line-up, there is a period of instability. But even with that in mind and based on last night's performance, there's plenty of potential to be realised in this new line-up.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cuban Salsa over a Chinese Restaurant

I found myself in Manchester not too long ago, courtesy of Jane and Christophe (they're still putting up with me!), at a salsa evening orgainsed by Cuban style dance teachers.

Moso Moso is an interesting place to hold such a thing: the floor's good although the room can get a little bit warm due to the low ceiling, but the real icing on the cake must be the intriguing possibility of having Dim Sum downstairs should the fancy take me. Now that just appeals to my sense of humour.

The music was a pleasant change; being more Cuban than what is normally played at the other nights I skulk into. The reggaeton towards the end of the night is not quite my cup of tea, but I'm open-minded enough to enjoy (and occassionally partake of) the spectacle. The most striking thing, to me as a dancer and a teacher, is how good the standard of timing was. That is, everyone I danced with and observed. Sure, there was the expected variation in physical abilities, but there was I didn't experience the "uncomfortable struggling with a partner whose timing skills had remained vestigeal due to move-blinkering" thing all night.

That surely must be a positive endorsement on the student and dance-culture engendered by Susan and Juan of Salsa de Cuba. I like the way they try to help their students appreciate salsa in its cultural context, and I'm glad to see that there are takers for this approach.

This wasn't my first visit there, although it was the first in a long time. If you like Cuban music, and a chance to dance in that style, I think you might want to pop in and check it out.

Loo Yeo

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cándido's Tumbao

The tail end of last week was when we managed to get the equipment fully synch'ed. The Dell PowerEdge 2950 running with Cubase, the latency of the Focusrite Saffire Pro down to 2.0ms, high quality cables throughout, the lower-output Mackie HR824 replaced, and everything that was eligible hooked up to the Apogee Big Ben.

I'm still disappointed that the Saffire has a propensity to disconnect itself due to driver instability. This is a known issue, and I'm impatient to have that problem resolved because it's a lump in our workflow; trying to get it to re-engage after it drops out. I understand why it's so well regarded and reviewed, but surely this matter needs prompt attention. I was also surprised with the Mackie monitor not living up to its reputation in terms of quality assurance. The theory goes that they're delivered to retailers in four-unit clusters, and consecutive serial numbers are matched. This has not been my experience. One of the pair was DOA out of the box. The other pair had a nearly 6dB disparity in output. Eventually I found one that matched closely enough the output of my original "hot" one, but was far from being consecutive.

Given that the Big Ben is reputed to increase resolution of the stereo field, unmatched monitors don't make that assessment possible. I'm figuring out solutions now.

On Sunday we were back in the recording saddle once again, beginning with the guide piano and vocals for "Tiempo para el amor". Then the conga and tumba were set up and mic'ed. There followed a marathon session of my playing Cándido's tumbao for "Llamada de Ogún" until I got an acceptable take. Now I can play the regular stuff in my sleep / 'til the cows come home but this groove is something else altogether. It's a lot like the bassline in "Corazón Fugitivo" which reveals errors and drift very easily. When that happens, the only option is to start all over again.
Several hours later, we got a stronger take than the one I'd laid down a few months ago. Nailing a finalised take of Bolero rítmico and tumbao moderno for "Tiempo para el amor" was a snap after that.

Monday and yesterday were supposed to be bassline recording days, but with my left hand still tired from the conga session, Dan and I thought it best not to push the issue, and we went to first mixdown mode instead finishing six songs. We should have "Recordando África" and "Llamada de Ogún" finished before band practice tonight; so the band can have it as a take-home pressie.

So I've got a lot to look forward to... a fun-packed evening promising capers and frolicks as we prepare for our gig (with brand spanking new line-up) on the 20th.

Loo Yeo