Ozomatli and the Salvador Santana Band, Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ- 12/10
Tales From the Desert Dog Diaries
[I came across the old abandoned car in the outskirts of the desert. The voice filtered out of the car like a disembodied narrator from a black and white film noir. I took notes as the audio candy segued from dialogue to music]
a big helping of an amalgamation of culturesa Latin Mardi Gras on a Saturday night at the Marquee. Ozomatli tore through their set, entered the crowd en masse, played for about five minutes in a circle of brass and percussion and hit the lobby for photos, conversation and CD signings. You knowyour typical Ozomatli bonanza.
“Dos Cosas Ciertas” opened with a Legion of Doom/Justice League of America overture rap stomp. Salsa juicea fast-paced party with mobile and agile horns kicked from the edge of “Chango.” “City of Angels” was dedicated to El Lay and took everything Osomatli could fit into their musical blender and poured out an amazing concoction of metal-dance-hip-hop-jazzwait a minutea fight broke out and bass guitarist Wil-Dog Abers put out the fire but quick: “Heyyou’re not going to do that. We’re all part of one family, one clique, one Ozomatli family!”
“Eva” paved the way for “the time for some OZO classics” as the band indicated before charging into another burst of percussion-driven dance music. This was Ozomatli at its most pleasurable as the multiple horn format mixed with percussion and EVERYONE chiming in on lusty background vocals with non-stop energy electrifying the bouncing crowd that induced a cross-cultural band counterattack. Who was producing the pulsethe audience or the band? Did it matter? No, not one bit, as the whole place was one big firey ball of heady and exuberant live music.
Ambient sound architecture was erected as a cool Middle Eastern drone bubbled with a tabla until a heavy wah wah guitar kicked the band into a high plains drift. The horns tilted the sound towards the heavens but the underlying Arabesque drone circled around an Australian aborigine effect that was quite unique. “Believe” was the name of the tune and the song lived up to its lofty label as the groove was deep, the rhythm section, tight and the rap fast and direct. “Cumbia” and “Saturday Night” increased the already prevalent party atmosphere in the crowd as those not bouncing throughout the theatre were being bounced against the barrier. Crashing from the stage, again, were perfect lead and backing vocals by the whole band as percussion filled the fills and horns horndogged the whole mix into a funky guitar lick from Curtis Mayfieldland.
“Como Ves” was a virtual synthesis and recapitulation of everything OZOMATLI and raced through like a supersonic Latin punk version of The Clashhorns, Spanish lyrics, whistles-whistles-whistles, HORNS, percussion and angry drumstough, hearty, pure.
[Music ceased; I stopped writing and listened to the radio voice return]
At the endthey did the only thing they could dothey made communion with the audience. Ozomatli entered the crowd en masse, played for about five minutes in a circle of brass and percussion and hit the lobby for photos, conversation and CD signings. You knowyour typical Ozomatli bonanza.
[Turned the station and dialed in a radio talk show program]
“Thathow do youthat is not my problem. II don’t wantI don’t want to take my family if there is notI don’t want to go to nothing. Is America what they say it is?”
“America is Jesus?”
“Oh, no, of course not. I wouldn’t say that.”
“No? You just did. You said”
“No. I was using Jesus’ as just some sort of sound to fill the silence, the void, the little space between us until I knewAmerica is whatever you want it to be.”
[I turned the station one last time and got the Salvador Santana Band]
The Salvador Santana Band opened up for Ozomatli with a tight collection of Latin rock that leaned towards soul and hip-hop music but never really lifted off the ground. Perhaps, due to its namesake, the band doesn’t want to appear too similar to the Carlos Santana trademark of extended guitar solos mixed with a large serving of elegant song craft. And that makes a hell of lot of sense. In fact, the band didn’t even have a lead guitaristchoosing instead to fill out their dense sound with keys, bass, sax, drums, percussion and a male/female two-pronged vocal attack. The gal would sing beautifully soulful lyric couplets; her counterpart would blast out some heavy rap lyrics to induce the crowd into a sort of de rigueur subject matter mind meld. The band doesn’t jam just yet but you can hear that potential, a goal being accessed before carefully testing the waters. Perhaps, the outfit is weighing its material before venturing off into uncharted waves of space like Salvador’s legendary father explored. Maybe, he has found his own sound and wants to investigate its potential. Either way, with a name like Santana, the band is bound to always be adventurous and melodically interesting. We shall see