Jose Conde Central Park Summerstage
New York, New York
June 6, 2010
On his new musical project, Brooklyn-based Jose Conde clearly wanted to break from his salsa roots, presenting instead a set of newly written material in which funk and rock are carefully blended with Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz sensibilities. That was evident as soon as his solid six-piece band kicked off the show with a tune in reggae style, following that with two funk-inflected mambos.
Though he sang entirely in Spanish, Conde took the time to explain to the audience (in English) what each song was about. The set went back and forth between explicit Latin material to more pop-oriented music, such as the funky "Ride La Ola" and a more percussive number he said had been inspired by a documentary he's seen on National Geographic.
Among the highlights were a gentle bolero-inspired ballad Conde explained was about "pure love, the kind that never goes away" and a more danceable moment in which the band was joined by a group of dancers that got the crowd on their feet in spite of the heavy rain that began following around halfway through the set.
Conde's multicultural band, which included players from Cuba, Venezuela and Brazil, had great chemistry together (unfortunately as of this writing we did not get access to information about the lineup), especially the guitarist and the three percussionists, who were constantly adding creative individual moments throughout the show.
Towards the end of the set, Conde took the music towards a more Latinesque direction as a tribute to his parents' home country of Cuba (where the evening's headliners, Pupy Y Los Que Son Son, also hailed from). A tenor saxophonist joined them and gave a harrowing solo during the last number, the lyrics of which spoke of building bridges between North Americans and their Latin neighborsa nod to the recent immigration controversy in the state of Arizona.
Jose Conde's new project shows great promise. He has the ability to weave different genres and sounds into one concise package without losing touch with his Latin heritage. If the very positive response he got from the crowd was any indication, his fusion sound might just be the music to look out for this summer.