Sol y Canto
Makor, March 16, 2003:
I drive into Manhattan on a gorgeous sunny Sunday afternoon to see my longtime musical friends Rosi & Brian Amador. They have come back to New York City with their creative and talented band Sol y Canto. I met Rosi & Brian at our summer musical festival called The Boogie, which has been going for ten years. I was introduced to their original style of Latin music from their frequent visits to The Boogie where I have had the privilege to play music with them on my drums. Rosi & Brian do not usually play with a full set of drums, preferring their various Latin percussion instruments, but in my case they have graciously made an exception.
Makor is a discreet musical venue associated with the 92ND Street Y.M.C.A., located at 67TH Street and Columbus Avenue in Manhattan. Makor is quite a nice club and the staff is gracious and supportive. The concert is a Sunday matinee, scheduled for 3:00 P.M. I see both Rosi & Brian before the show. Their love and compassion has always been keenly evident and their hugs and salutations bring me right back into their world of warmth and tenderness. I am sitting at the front table and will be allowed to take photographs although it is not the normal club policy. Sol y Canto is returning to New York City after a four year absence. They are currently finishing up work, in the studio, on their upcoming bilingual children’s/family CD entitled: El Doble de Amigo / Twice as Many Friends.
Sol y Canto starts off with a song about the fruit vendor, “El vendedor.” When he (the vendor) comes to town, there is a big uproar as if something great was happening. Brian leads off on acoustic guitar with Rosi complementing him on bongos. Sol y Canto musicians fill out the sound with flute, conga drum, bass and percussion. The music is lively and spirited and creates the image of a festive neighborhood party. Rosi solidifies the percussion sound with the cowbell. Rosi’s excellent lead vocal is soon joined by Brian in a well blended harmonic duet. They go to an answer/response form that tells the story in a rhythmic and joyful dialog. There is an excellent flute solo by, Bernado Monk. He embellishes on the bright Latin melody with flourishes and creative melodic development.
The second song, “Que bonita luna” (plena), is from their second CD. This is a bright enchanting dance tune, which is both smooth and sincere. The percussionists start with their polyrhythmic intro, and then Brian plays the melodic lead on guitar with the bass playing in unison. The lively, melodic and rhythmic vocal is complemented by and features the soprano saxophone, which articulates the melody very clearly and creatively. The conga drum, played by Arturo Stable, is solid throughout and forms the backbone of the superior rhythm section that is Sol y Canto. Additionally, there is a tremendous conga solo; two percussion solos and an intriguing bass solo as well.
The next tune, “El doble de amigo”/ “Twice as many friends” (Tex-Mex cumbia), is off the new CD to be released very soon. This tune is lively and upbeat with succinct percussion by Rosi on guiro. The conga is subdued but solid and the soprano sax is featured. Brian is featured on lead vocal with Rosi answering in a musical storyline that creates strong harmonic vocal support.
The fourth tune is called, “Los Numeros” / “Numbers.” For this musical number, the Amador’s twin daughters Alisa & Sonia are called up on stage. The song features them counting to ten in Spanish and English. The twin daughters are such an integral part of the Amador’s life that the new CD is specifically a children’s and family CD. The musical accompaniment is guitar and bass only.
The next song, “En todo momento,” is from their 1999 CD of the same name. Brian plays the acoustic guitar exquisitely, what incredible chops! Brian and Rosi alternate lead vocals on the verses then join together in glorious harmonic collaboration. The strong bass line flows easily, carrying the melody along. There is an excellent flute solo by, Bernardo. This Brian Amador composition features a tremendous chord melody and joyful upbeat musical vision.
Song six is from Venezuela, “Tonada de luna llena” / “Tone poem of full moon.” Brian plays an intro of soothing melodic scales and chord melodies on his guitar. Alan del Castillo, small percussion & vocals, starts the ballad on lead vocals. His vocal is tasteful, strong, melodic and genuine. Rosi continues the lead vocal with her soulful mezzo-soprano voice. Her vocal possesses a sincere dynamic emphasis with a slow and sweet vibrato. Brian joins in to form a beautiful second harmony. Then Alan returns in a colorful and expressive third harmony, excellent!
Song seven, “Azucar de cana,” features conga player, Arturo Stable, on a box-like percussion instrument called a caja, playing an Afro-Peruvian rhythm. The bass line by Carlos del Pino is creatively complex, syncopated and funky. The ensemble plays on the excellent, lovely and rhythmic melody line. Brian plays excellent feather touch leads on his guitar. He adds nice octave touches complementing the articulately stated single note melody line. Arturo takes an incredible virtuoso caja solo, which is very syncopated, polyrhythmic and accented.
The next composition, “Casa planeta” (Cuban son), tells us that this world is a house that we all must care for. Sol y Canto has an embraceable ensemble blend. The audience is encouraged to join in a sing along, “le lo lai, le lo le le lo le le lo lo la.” The vocals are complemented by creative and spontaneous flute flourishes.
The band is introduced:
Bernardo Monk – sax, flute
Carlos Del Pino – bass
Arturo Stable – congas, caja, vocals
Dr. Alan del Castillo – ocarinas, quena, small percussion, vocals
Brian Amador – guitar, vocals
Rosi Amador – vocals, bongos, small percussion
Special guest: Aquiles Baez – Cuban “tres,” percussion
The next song, “Barquito de papel” / “Little paper boat” (Puerto Rican plena), is a classic Cuban children’s song about friendship and peace popularized on a Cuban TV show that features singing puppets. Rosi presents a very spirited lead vocal.
There is an intermission where Earth Rights International spokesperson, Ken, tells of the Amazon rain forest being cut down to pay off a huge debt to the banks. Ken formally played with Sol y Canto and was called upon later to sit in on piano. Dr. Lanny Smith spoke on behalf of Doctors for Global Health. It was started in El Salvador and is a community based health plan, predicated upon community invitation. It has expanded to Mexico and Uganda. His daughter was distributing informative literature. A candle vigil for peace is encouraged.
The SECOND SET starts with a song off the new CD, “La fiesta del tren” / “The train party” (calypso-son), which encourages us to join the parranda (party) as their house springs to life every tome the train goes by! The song has a very lively and invigorating calypso rhythm. The melody is emphasized by unison playing of the guitar and tenor sax. Rosi tops the mix with a strong vocal and succinct cowbell rhythmic contribution.
The next tune, “Semanario del primer beso,” is a poem about a woman who is dedicated to writing to children. There is a nice percussive sound and the melody is dramatically Spanish. The sincerely articulated verse is complemented by soprano saxophone, excellent!
Song three is, “Arco iris” / “Rainbow,” which asks: rainbow where do you sleep? Rosi serenades us with a sweet and emphatically slow melodic vocal. Brian soon joins for an exquisite two-part harmony. The audience is enticed to an answer/response sing along with Rosi & Brian.
The next musical entry is a Puerto Rican classic, “Capullito de aleli.” This is a lively salsa with dynamic stops for contrasting effect. There are excellent chord changes and the melody is bright and lifting. Brian takes an excellent solo on guitar. Carlos Del Pino gets to solo and he is all over the bass with double time scales and arpeggio runs.
Song five contains a superior soprano sax solo. It is imaginative and creative through the various changes. Their dear friend, Aquiles Baez, composer, arranger and musician joins in on this number on the Cuban “tres.” The Cuban “tres” is a smaller body guitar with three double strings placed farther apart then a standard guitar.
Song six, “Coqui serenito,” is about a small native Puerto Rican tree frog . It has a bright and stimulating calypso rhythm with a focused conga drum that is central to the sound. Arturo Stable is featured on conga drum, with Carlos very strong on bass. Rosi’s vocal is inspiring and the flute accompaniment and solo is excellent.
The next musical entry, “Receta para arroz integral” / “Recipe for brown rice,” is about dancing and food. It carries a guaracha rhythm that is bright, lively and very, very happy. Everyone in the band takes turns to solo. Aquiles Baez on Cuban “tres” is featured. The bass solo is fantastic, fast and furious. The conga solo is amazing featuring seamless polyrhythmic patterns. Arturo performs multifarious accents with well placed rests and spectacular double time, incredible!
The encore song is, “Banana” (calypso). Their long time friend and pianist, Kenny, joins the band on this number. There is a stupendous soprano sax solo. Ken tells me later that the song was the same but the arrangement was different, so he was challenged to adjust, but did so very well indeed.
Sol y Canto puts on a fantastic and inspiring show this afternoon. Every member of the band is exciting, talented, musically intellectual and refreshing. Having heard Rosi & Brian for years by themselves, I could easily assume their band would be musical heavyweights. Everyone in the audience stands and cheers their appreciation of the show of virtuoso talents that are Sol y Canto!!
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