By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Briefly fronting Buenaventura and stopping in at Hoy Como Ayer, Bofill has made his way to Giacosa in Coral Gables, where he hooks up on weekends with a number of former Bolero musicians and omnipresent saxophonist Hammadi Bayard. This past week Hoy Como Ayer dismantled the wax and welcomed Buenaventura for a regular guiso (that is, gig) just as fast as their wheels can carry the experimental band from its evening shows at the Doral supper club. Somehow in all the comings and goings this self-proclaimed "son alternativo" sextet picked up Cheito Quiñones, a Puerto Rican sonero. "I'm Borin-Cuban," declares the seasoned singer who got his start on his native Boriquen with salsa legends El Gran Combo. Arriving in Miami twelve years ago, he's sung backup for Cuban acts from Willie Chirino to Gloria Estefan. "I'm still learning," he says of his foray into Cuban music, "but I'm a jíbaro, which is what they call a guajiro -- it's all the same flavor from the countryside."
Maybe, although Cheito's somewhat clumsy handling of a folkloric rumba last week suggests that his most exciting contribution might arise from the differences between the two island traditions. Over the past months, the musicians have tightened their experimental variations on traditional son, introducing breaks as clean and breathtaking as whiplash. Cheito's expert vocal improvisations suggest he will prove a quick study, certain not only to master the form but to make it something else. His barefoot rendition of the heartbreaking classic "Twenty Years" ("Here's a piece of my soul/That you rip without pity") moved both the audience and the singer to tears before he quickly sang an apology that left them laughing, leaving no doubt that the Borin-Cuban has much to offer. "I'm not trying to copy Bofill," Cheito clarifies. "There's only one like him. I'm trying to do something completely different."
If we're lucky, that something different may turn out to be as satisfying as the Cuban-influenced Congolese sound of Ricardo Lemvo, who will be bringing his Los Angeles-based Afro-Cuban Makina Loca to Starfish on March 3. Big-band rumba made its way back to the mother continent in the Thirties, hitting the Congo with a force that reverberates through Central African pop still. Stir all those mutual influences into the ethnic stew of Los Angeles and bring it back our way for the weekend. Then show me a rat that won't be shaking its ass.