¡Salsa Brava! Last Dance of the Season: “Local Band” Thrills Packed Audience With Lively Dance Music
– by Lee Greene
On Saturday evening, October 10, 2015, I attended the Last Dance of the Season concert by the spicy hot dance band, ¡Salsa Brava! at Paschal Winery in Talent, Oregon. How I happened to be there is an interesting little anecdote. Several days earlier (October 8), I was also at Paschal Winery, to review a memorable jazz concert by the Seattle jazz group, Pearl Django. [See review at Performing Arts Reviews, Siskiyou Music Project Presents Pearl Django at Paschal Winery: “Jazz Isn’t Dead!”, http://performingarts.reviews/2015/10/13/smps-pearl-django-concert/]
In the course of that earlier concert, I was chatting with the woman seated next to me, who happens to be the source of the title (“Jazz Isn’t Dead”) of that earlier piece. At one point in our conversation, she off-handedly remarked, “I’m going to be performing here with my group on Saturday.”
She: “Yes, but it’s just a local band. You wouldn’t be interested in reviewing us.”
Me: “What’s the name of the band?”
She: “¡Salsa Brava!”
Me: “Wanna bet? I’ve already seen and reviewed ¡Salsa Brava! once before, at the Britt Festivals’ Taste of Summer event.” [See review at Jacksonville Review, Britt Festivals Kicks Off 2015 Season With a Hot Taste of Summer Celebration, http://bit.ly/1MXyQkr]
She: “I thought you looked familiar!”
I had, in fact, been sitting beside Christina Marsilia, vocalist, flutist and major promoter of ¡Salsa Brava!.
“Just a local band”? Ha! To borrow a description from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at whose Green Show ¡Salsa Brava! also has recently performed:
“Spicy Latin music with a scintillating beat that inspires dance!
Salsa Brava is [a] dance band influenced by the melding of African rhythms and European harmonies that occurred uniquely in Cuba and later enriched by elements of jazz, rock and soul music in New York’s Spanish Harlem, becoming that unique, hot, spicy music that has come to be known as salsa. The band plays a rich array of dance styles, including Afro Cuban salsa, son Cubano, cumbia, merengue, bolero, bachata, cha cha cha, plenas and Latin pop. . . . [U]pbeat polyrhythms [are] created by piano montunos, percussive rhythm patterns of congas, timbales and anticipated bass lines. Balancing out the instrumentals are the vocal leads and harmonic choruses, creating an altogether scintillating beat that makes the body want to move! Artists and groups that have inspired the band’s selections include Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Cachao, Lily Martinez, Mongo Santamaria, Dizzy Gillespie, Mark Anthony, Gloria Estafan, Buena Vista Social Club, Los Van Van, among many others. Some members of the band have also traveled to Cuba to study at the National School of the Arts in Havana.
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‘Salsa Brava! is an anomaly in this area. There is just no one else like us around! We are a group of musicians dedicated to playing this music authentically. We connect strongly with the dance community as well as enthusiastic listeners of this genre. We have a large following who are very loyal to us and the genre. We are dedicated to keeping this music alive and known to music enthusiasts. We are connected with the teachers in the area who specialize in salsa and bachata and we include them and their students whenever we can at our performances. There are many bands like us in the larger metropolitan areas of Portland, San Francisco, New York and Miami. However, we are the only band of its kind here in Southern Oregon! We want to continue spreading the joy of this music to all!’” [Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show Salsa Brava!, https://www.osfashland.org/artist-biographies/green-show/salsa-brava.aspx]
While they may be local, they certainly are not “just a local band”. They are a phenomenon. They DO have a large following, who ARE indeed very loyal to the band and to the salsa genre. They had been playing regularly throughout the warm weather season, almost always at outdoor venues (like the first time I saw them, at Britt Festivals’ Taste of Summer event in the streets of downtown Jacksonville) with accommodating dance floors, and virtually always to packed audiences.
Now, at summer’s end, and with the cool weather soon about to descend, they were playing their final concert of the season indoors, at Paschal Winery, which presented a very nice dance floor, to accommodate that large and loyal audience, not to mention some excellent wines, to lubricate dancers’ libidos and limbs.
For their Last Dance of the Season at Paschal Winery, ¡Salsa Brava! was a seven piece band: Bassist Jeff Addicott, percussionists Mike Fitch and Theresa McCoy, Keyboardist Anne Muth, Vocalist & flutist Christina Marsilia, Tenor Saxophonist Gordon Greenley and Soprano Saxophonist Daniel Chavez. For this event they were joined by Salsa Dance Teacher, Jennifer Berry, who furnished a very beneficial and instructive Salsa lesson to a filled room for an hour before the live music began.
The music by ¡Salsa Brava! was lively, hot, spicy, inspirational, and almost impossible to resist dancing to. Here’s a brief glimpse just to give you a sense of it:
When the actual live performance by the band began, the venue was filled (more people than at the jazz concert in the same venue several days before), the dance floor packed.
The audience was a diverse cross-section of the community: people of all shapes and sizes, a wide diversity of ages (very young to, borrowing from the Spanish turn-of-phrase, those “having many years”), a multitude of races, both sexes well represented of course, all manner of apparel: from blue jeans to eye-catching flowing salsa dresses, long hair, short hair, heterosexual couples, women dancing with women, really a bit of everything from the community.
There was a LOT of energy in the room, these loyal Salsa fans just don’t quit, young, old, they keep on dancing, as long as the band provides music to dance to. And as long as there was music to dance to, they were an exceptionally happy, joy-filled crowd. I’ve been to a LOT of concerts this summer, by a lot of artists, including some real touring pros, at all kinds of venues, including the Britt Festivals. But none of the audiences elsewhere could top this one for its energy, enthusiasm and just plain joy for the music being performed and the opportunity to dance to it.
The crowd dances up a storm as Dance Band ¡Salsa Brava! performs, with dance instructor Jennifer Berry (center) leading the way at the “Last Dance of the Season” at Paschal Winery in Talent, OR on October 10, 2015
Another interesting thing happened at this concert, at least for me – a nothing-in-life-gets-wasted karma moment. Just before the band began to play, ¡Salsa Brava! percussionist Mike Fitch approached me to inquire about the caricatures I create. I have been drawing caricatures for years, and had drawn one of his daughter, violist Kimberly Fitch, which he had apparently very much enjoyed. It had been a long time since I had drawn any as I have been pre-occupied with other pursuits. But in the following days, I had some wait time, waiting for permission to include video clips in the Pearl Django review. So to kill time, I drew some new caricatures, first of guitarist Ed Dunsavage, who performed with Pearl Django, then of Rogue Valley Symphony conductor Martin Majkut, who was soon to be leading the symphony in this season’s Masterworks Concert 2, and finally of five of the members of ¡Salsa Brava! When I put these new caricatures on public display, I received multiple entreaties from people, asking me to include my caricatures with my reviews. Well, THAT was a new idea; I’d never thought about that before. The two things, drawing caricatures and writing reviews, were never before connected in my mind. But why not? So, I give you, with this review, my caricatures of five of the members of ¡Salsa Brava! Enjoy!:
¡Salsa Brava! is done performing for the season, but will be back when the warm weather returns in 2016. Although I can’t yet tell you when and where, I can promise that their performance schedule for next season will be included on the Performing Arts Reviews Calendar of Performing Arts in the Rogue Valley, so if you are interested in indulging in some salsa dancing next season, you’ll be able to find them by checking the calendars on this website.
Meanwhile, another concert is on tap at Paschal Winery on Friday, November 6, when Siskiyou Music Project presents Mimi Fox in a “Flying Solo – Acoustic” concert in which she’ll be performing the music of the Beatles, rendered with Mimi’s signature lightening fast playing and emotional depth. For tickets, phone Siskiyou Music Project at 541-488-3869 or purchase online at http://bit.ly/1NLOJOr.