CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Dr. Loco, with Carlos Caro, Saul Sierra

Monday, September 8, 2008

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Dr. Loco, with Carlos Caro, Saul Sierra

I had the great pleasure to see Dr. Loco and his smoking hot Jalapeno band, with the great one two punch of Carlos Caro and Saul Sierra.

Once again, the Maritime Academy welcomed Vallejo to come and sit by the bay, watch the sun set, drink wine, eat cheese and listen to some really entertaining local acts.

It was a surprise to see the line up performing with Dr. Loco. Two familiar and talented players i was thrilled to see. Carlos and Saul. They have a project together that i will detail in future posts soon.

Carlos, a congero from Guanajay, Cuba, is one of the most gracious and kind people in the business. He is one busy cat.

Talking after the show, he mentioned this was his third gig of the day and he had a 10pm show in the city that evening! man, this cat is in demand, and there is no question why, as he has fat chops and big ears with strong roots in the Caribbean.

It's really interesting to me, as Carlos was the Congero for a band that included my first teacher on Timbales a few years back. The band was Orquestra Guitano, and Francisco, the man on the timbs, gave me my first introduction to the foundations of latin music and El Mole's technique - even though i had played the congas for over 15 years at that point. This was back in 2000, when i lived in Santa Cruz.

I remember Francisco saying he really dug Carlos' style, and that he was a well respected player in the bay.

Sorry for the crappy sound, this video was shot with my phone...

What's interesting to me, is that i didnt appreciate his playing as much back then, as my awareness of what was 'tasty' and what was not hadn't developed, at that point. Im looking forward to looking back to this time to gain perspective on how far i have come, and how far i have yet to go. Its only been a short time, really... and it feels like a long time ago.

But back to Carlos, i can tell you - Now, when i see this cat play... there is no wonder why he is so respected.. he is a very clean performer. I noticed, that in the middle of a blues song, on his third of four gigs, he didnt take any tunes 'off', or reserve himself when doubling the snare hits with his slaps, for example. A serious pro. No tape in sight.

He has this graceful effortlessness about his playing. Perhaps it's his laid back nature, but he has strong chops that often enact bold and confident statements of his Salsa roots. The contrast is effective, and very Carlos Caro. Efficient and very musical, he has it figured out. Only a pro can make it through four gigs in a day without much of a problem. I always appreciate such clean technique and such 'big ears'.

It was really nice to meet Saul Sierra, after talking on the phone in the past regarding gigs with Sandy. Here is another super nice cat, who has a majorly fat tumbao laying down rock solid lines on his baby bass. Saul is one of very few top notch Latin bass players in the bay area, and he is very well respected by the Cuban players in the area.

The show was really fun, with reflections of Dr. Loco's other job as an anthropology professor at SF State. Each tune of the set was one interesting genre after another. It was like a tour around Latin America, through the setlist of a Doctor of latin music, among other disciplines.

They played Cumbia, Banda, latin rock, Blues, Mambo, swing, a bit of Zydeco ... im surprised they left out Brazil, and i dont remember a tango... but it was only one set!!!

They laid it down, and the crowd danced wildly in appreciation. They had a fun balance to the sound, with electric guitar, harmonica, tenor sax and flute. The sound man did well, nice to report.

It was a motley crew of experienced musicians, but it came together into a very entertaining set. Dr. Loco, is such a pro on the mic. He knows how to get the crowd worked up. Its always nice to see a pro do his thing. Pro's entertain, and performance is an enjoyable artform in and of itself.

Some info on Carlos Caro and Saul Sierra... from

Carlos Caro was born in Havana, Cuba in 1967, and began playing percussions at a very early age. In 1983 he entered the Alejandro Garcia Caturla Conservatory in Havana and later he attended ENIA (National School of Art Instructors). Carlos began his professional musical career with the group CLAVE, which was made up of musicians such as "Puly" Hernandez, and the sons of the revered Cuban trombonist, Juan Pablo Torres. He also played with �OPUS 13�, a band which eventually became �PAULO Y SU ELITE,� lead by Paulo Fernandez Gallo, with whom Carlos toured Central America, Europe and Asia. The band also formed part of singer Jackeline Castellanos 1990-1991 tour and recorded the album, �La dama del son�. The recording was nominated for the �EGREM� award given by the Music Recording and Editing Association of Cuba.

In late 1993, he emigrated to Mexico, where he played with groups such as 40 Grados, La Ley, La Rumbantela and various other Cuban ensembles. Carlos also performed Danzon with the Mexico City Philharmonic at the Palace of Fine Arts in 1996, shortly before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Since his arrival, Carlos has become a much sought-after percussionist, working with established Bay Area musicians such as Rebeca Maule�n, Omar Sosa, QBA, Avance, Cubanacan, Candela, Ritmo y Armonia, Dr. Loco and his Rocking Jalapeño Band, among others.

...And more info on Carlos, including contact for gigs, lessons, etc...

Saul Sierra is a Mexico City native and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he majored in Performance and studied with Oscar Stagnaro, Daniel Morris and Jim Stinnet, among others. Saul received the US Scholorship tour award and the Outstanding Performer award at Berklee. As a resident of the Bay Area since the Fall of 1999, Saul has performed with Nestor Torres, John Santos, Jesus Diaz, Orestes Vilato, Mark Levine, Mike Spiro, Jackeline Rago, Wayne Walles, Aquiles Baez, Anthony Blea and Maria Marquez, among others.

one of Saul's projects with John Santos and Orestes Vilato... must be fun!


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