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By Maya, Return to SalsaCrazy.Com Features


Last year SF Jazz Festival did not schedule its yearly salsa party at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. However, the festival organizers compensated Latin music fans by bringing some of the best talent in their spring season line-up that matches in scope and talent the festival's regular fall program. On March 22 the Auditorium was filled with listeners and dancers who came to enjoy the sounds of Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Latin jazz piano virtuoso Eddie Palmieri and India, the Princess of salsa.  From the dancers' point of view, Spanish Harlem Orchestra's "salsa dura" was the most inspiring part of the show. Even with terrible acoustics, its quality sound and perfect renditions of many now famous songs brought the house down. A reviewer from the Village Voice has said, " Their horns practically blow your hair around when they hit in unison". In spite of an abundance of salsa bands in the Bay Area we rarely have a chance to enjoy that kind of quality sound New York is famous for. Oscar Hernandez, the Orchestra's pianist and musical director assembled a superb group of musicians and singers including Ray de la Paz. Too bad many dancers who have a habit of showing up late at dance clubs missed their spectacular performance scheduled at 8 pm (It was a concert, folks!).


The legendary Eddie Palmieri with his octet La Perfecta appealed more to jazz lovers. The group's long and elaborate improvisations were fun to listen to, but hard to dance to. Several long instrumentals filled the set. Some of Palmieri's tunes are extraordinarily catchy with a driving force that brings dancers to ecstasy. So his selection of numbers was surprising for a dance party.


Finally, La Princesa de la Salsa, India was greeted with thundering applause by her adoring fans. India's powerhouse voice can fill a stadium, but her three opening numbers were smoldering boleros. You won't hear many of her songs in local salsa clubs, yet her last hit "Seduceme" is already #1 nationwide on the Top 100 Latin Billboard Chart.


World class acts are very expensive, so the SF Jazz efforts to bring these bands to the Bay Area are very commendable. We must agree, $35 for 4 hours of great music is not asking too much. So far, swing dancers can only dream of such opportunity to dance with top-notch orchestras. Next fall's festival program is still in the works. Let's hope we'll have another opportunity to see and hear our favorite stars who will make us dance our hearts out.



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