The Conga Kings
Tri-C JazzFest Picante
November 17, 2006
Building on the success of the annual Latin shows that had previously been part and parcel of the spring event known as JazzFest, Tri-C for the second year in a row has expanded their horizons with a weekend of Latin-Jazz performances destined to brush off the chill of the season. Although the crowd proved to be a bit on the modest size, Friday night's offering certainly lived up to the hype while proving to be a rare opportunity to see two veteran performers who might not reach these neck of the woods again anytime soon. At the ages of 85 and 76 respectively, Candido Camero and Carlos "Patato Valdez are two legends in the field of Latin percussion who, along with Giovanni Hidalgo, demonstrated the visceral appeal of drumming and the exotic rhythms at the heart of the Latin-jazz experience.
Backed by a five-piece ensemble led by Ray Santos, the Conga Kings took center stage and each player's individual style would add additional layers of complexity to a polyrhythmic brew of rumba, salsa, and other styles. While Potato would play more of a supportive role, Candido took a lion's share of the solo space and his displays were a model of taste and musical substance. Using the congas as a melodic instrument, he played the melodic vamp that opened "A Night in Tunisia. During the second set, Candido would also take the spotlight in a duo performance with tres player David Oquendo, using both his chin and elbows on the drums to obtain a wider range of pitches.
Having played with Dizzy Gillespie, Airto, and Jack DeJohnette, Hidalgo is the prominent voice of his generation, and he more than justified his position with dazzling displays of technical prowess. Yet it was also clearly obvious that he was getting a kick out of watching and playing alongside the two elder statesmen who flanked him on the left and the right. Following the descarga that closed the show, Hidalgo was also the first one on his feet to join Candido, Patato, and the other members of the ensemble for a closing bow. Indeed, there was something special about the evening that was palpable even to those involved in the music making.
C. Andrew Hovan