January 01, 2004
BY JASON SONGE
D.b.a. was packed on Thursday night as revelers shouted and danced in appreciation of local spacey Afro-Cuban jazz band Otra. Otra translates to "other" in Spanish.
With delicious rhythms and percussive hooks, Latin music made a concert feel like a street party. The local sextet gave the people what they wanted, but they also experimented often and pushed the boundaries of what jazz music should be, a la Miles Davis and Bitches Brew. The band was inventive with tempo changes, and they were able to stuff numerous melodies into one song. The band was saxophonist Brent Rose, bassist Sam Price, pianist Rob Block, trumpeter Eric Lucero, Cristobal Cruzado on timbales and Humberto Menes on tumbadora, bongo, and chekere.
The band was not afraid to get weird: the saxophone dreamily floated in and out of a song and the synthesizer spouted feedback fuzz. A light Caribbean tone is much more common from the piano. The group stuck to original sexy mid-tempo numbers that sweated soul. The band, which was well-rehearsed, was mainly instrumental, but their thematic chants added to the party atmosphere. Song after song, Rose wailed away as the band got louder, while trumpeter Eric Lucero kept the base melody.
The backbone of the band was Cruzado. He was an unassuming man offstage, but he was a polyrhythmic Tasmanian devil during his extended percussive solo. His fills and style have been stolen by modern day rock drummers. Just as energetic onstage was Rose, who blew so much he became breathless. He was rewarded by a wallop of applause.
The band was very cognizant of their surroundings. When a member was smoking, the band rose up and played better. The audience bolstered them in the same way.
The band tried to bring a New Orleans backyard feel to d.b.a., but the touristy and stuffy New York atmosphere of the place always stifled the attempt. The only other thing that killed the party atmosphere was when the band came around with the tip jar(It almost felt like extortion. I will walk up and drop money if I have enjoyed the music, but donít try and make me feel bad if youíre not gonna charge a cover).
All in all, it was a very fun night. Lucero and Rose are traveling to Switzerland for a few months, so letís hope the other members can keep up the spirit of the band until they return. Itís real.