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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Havana Club 5 @ Empty Shop, Durham. Nov. 6

Carlos Luis Rivera (Vocals, Timbales/Bongos); Paco Rivera (Congas/Hand Perc.); Paul Grainger (Bs Gtr); Alan Law (Piano)
(Review by Teresa Driscoll).
It’s a weekday night, this quirky city centre venue is full to bursting, all seats and floor space taken... and the manager’s having to turn people away. The audience members - mostly students - listen and watch reverentially.  No, not a scene from a 1960s folk revival concert – it’s a Havana Club 5 gig in Durham, part of the monthly jazz night programme at Empty Shop.
Our evening of Latin and Afro Cuban music is led by front man Carlos who entertains with his spirited percussion, strong vocals, dancing, audience engagement, and humour “On percussion we have mi primo, Paco Rivera; on bass, we have el señor......Paul, and on piano, el señor.... el señor... Alan”. You had to be there.
The band kicks off with a number called Carlito’s Way (by Carlos), followed by the steadier El Cantante and moving on with Vacilon, Vivar and Mandinga. There were excellent solos from all the band members who have very different styles and energy, but complement each other well.
Set 2 starts with a dramatic version of jazz standard Afro Blue. Percussion instruments from Paco’s store are handed out (along with verbal instructions) to around half a dozen audience members, the rest of us are clapping along and you know what? It sounds amazing, it's fun, we felt part of the music.
El Cuarto de Tula – a Cuban ‘son’ made famous by the Buena Vista Social Club. Paco and Carlos on percussion, Paul on bass and Alan on piano are a strong team and make a brilliant job of this one (with more superb solos).... if there had been any floor space there would have been lots more dancing.
We’re then treated to an energetic version of Canteloupe Island (resisting the temptation to call out “funky funky” as in U3’s Cantaloop). Next comes Tristeza and we da-da along with the familiar tune. For the lively Con Que the audience sing phrases back at Carlos while the band holds it together brilliantly.
As the last number comes to an end and things wind up for the night, there is a palpable disappointment in the air....come back to Durham soon Havana Club 5!
Teresa D.

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