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MagiCircle featuring Paoli Mejias at North City Bistro and Wine Bar

MagiCircle featuring Paoli Mejias at North City Bistro and Wine Bar

Courtesy Jack Gold-Molina

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Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” began with a variation of the traditional Cuban Columbia rhythm then broke into a cut time variation of the Puerto Rican toque Abakua.
MagiCircle featuring Paoli Mejias
North City Bistro and Wine Bar
Shoreline, Washington
October 20, 2023

MagiCircle featuring Santana conga player Paoli Mejias performed two sets of Brazilian-and Caribbean-influenced jazz to an intimate crowd at North City Bistro and Wine Bar located just northeast of Seattle. Drummer and leader Jeff Busch introduced the band and then the music started with Mejias and bongo player Samuel Alamillo trading solos.

Vocalist Adriana Giordano engaged the audience with rousing choruses as the night progressed. Trombonist Nathan Vetter and saxophonist Darian Asplund soloed off each other with pianist Julio Jaregui and bassist Dean Schmidt locked into a groove. The rhythms moving and changing all in straight time, the musicians were fluid and traded phrases.

The Hermeto Pascoal tune, "Música das Nuvens e do Chao," opened slow then jumped into cut time. Busch and Mejias laid the tempo down straight ahead with Asplund and Vetter playing a complex melodic phrase. The tune continued to pick up energy, lifting off while staying in sync with Busch's Brazilian bell patterns. With Schmidt improvising and riffing, Asplund blazed a solo and traded lines with Vetter.

The audience was actively involved, with people leaving their tables to dance. At times the music almost seemed to be playing itself. Giordano sang over joyous, upbeat Brazilian or Afro Cuban toques and Mejias and Busch were always in the pocket but never stayed in the same place.

Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" began with a variation of the traditional Cuban Columbia rhythm then broke into a cut-time variation of the Puerto Rican toque Abakua. Alamillo and Busch comped and kept clave with Schmidt and Jaregui, Mejias cut loose with blazing conga riffing and powerful shekere playing.

The music was dynamic, at times more laid-back and always accented by the fiery drumming of Mejias, Busch and Alamillo with Asplund, Vetter and trumpeter Ron Barrow trading solos. When the second set had ended, it was Giordano's uplifting choruses sung with the audience that made the evening transcendent.

Personnel

Paoli Mejias: congas, percussion; Samuel Alamillo: bongos, percussion; Jeff Busch: drums, percussion; Dean Schmidt: bass; Julio Jaregui: piano; Darian Asplund; saxophone, flute; Nathan Vetter: trombone: Ron Barrow: trumpet; Adriana Giordano; vocals, triangle

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