April 23, 2004
The goofball factor was in full effect as local Latin septet Los Vecinos("the neighbors") took to the Sprint Stage Friday afternoon. Saxophonist Rob Wagner, Flutist Hart McNee, bandleader/bassist Andy Wolf, guitarist Jonathan Freilich, and percussionists Michael Skinkus, John Bagnato, and Dave Sobel are known around town almost as much for their playfulness and sense of humor as they are for their astounding musical ability.
They were all smiles as they joked with one another during and between songs. Wolf and Sobel repeated Spanish phrases after songs ended, like children still enraptured with a foreign sound. Working off an unwritten New Orleans code, Wolf "highly recommended" that the audience members who skipped work turn off their cell phones. So, I did.
Los Vecinos were a party band. Their vocal-oriented Afro-Cuban jazz was full of hot rhythms, but they also took it down a notch with Cuban son music. They mixed up originals with classics by Cachao, Chapotin, and the Buena Vista Social Club. There was no drummer, but Skinkus and his mates more than covered up that fact with their talent. Skinkus is probably the most accomplished white percussionist on the scene. McNee's flute playing lent color that sent the songs over the top.
Wolf was very confident as a bandleader, and he engaged the crowd well. These clowns are really serious about this music.