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Live Review

Jésus Diáz Y Su Afro-Cuban Ensamble at Yerba Buena Gardens Esplanade

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Jesus Diaz
Yerba Buena Gardens Espanade
Summer Kickoff Concert
San Francisco, CA
May 7, 2022

Yerba Buena Gardens enlists and supports many musical artists on its Esplanade. It is a beautiful and spacious urban oasis where everyone can boogie and enjoy the sunshine. Jesús Díaz is a Havana-born Bay Area treasure who has done much to propagate Cuban music locally and beyond. Long known for his QBA band, he assembled his "Habana Afro-Cuban Ensamble"—a stellar cast— for the season kickoff event at the Esplanade. Díaz is a widely recognized conguero and master Afro-Cuban percussionist who has long made Oakland his home. In addition, he is one heckuva guy and much loved in the community.

The musicians in this group represent a veritable who's who of Latin and jazz players. The Cuban-born cats comprise most of the band. They are Díaz himself, who is the leader-musical director, chekerosero, and lead vocalist; drummer Raúl Piñeda Roque who has worked with Cuban jazz pianist Chuchito Valdes; formidable pianist and vocalist Ariacne Trujillo Duran of Pedrito Martinez fame; trumpet maestro Leider Chapotín from the legendary Chapotín family; groove thumper bassist Julio de la Cruz, and the young Roberto Vizcaino, Jr. on congas who has worked with the legendary Chucho Valdes, as has his famed conguero father, Roberto Sr.

Díaz opened the set traditionally with the La Roye incantation to Elegguá. Orishá of the Crossroads (where heaven meets earth.) The group then proceeded to play several tunes, where every band member had a featured solo. Outstanding was Vizcaino's solo. His hands top Mach 1, and his ingenuity boggles the mind as it enriches the heart. Also of note was Trujillo Duran, featured vocally and pianistically on "Oh Felicidad."

It is no understatement to say that band had nearly everyone on their feet dancin' and groovin' to the music. With this kickoff, may there soon be an exciting return.

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