Reviews

The Latin Project

Andy Hermann
The Latin Project

The Latin Project

City: Los Angeles
Venue: Shelter
Date: 2003-10-14
S E T    L I S T
Conga Room Set List
Windows
Lei Lo Lai
En Fuego
Universal
Corcavado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)
Sonhando
Estoy
Clouds
Musica de Amor
Percussion/bass jam session
Brazilian Love Affair
Around the time I sat down to write this, I got a press release announcing that the Latin Project's first single off their debut album Nueva Musica had hit number one on the Billboard dance charts, which is some of the best news I've heard from the music industry in a long time. For one thing, the single, "Lei Lo Lai", is the first song in years with an ounce of soul to beat out the pack of trance anthems and clunky pop remixes usually vying for the dance chart top spot. For another thing, the band behind it is the real deal, a spectacularly effective juggler of house, jazz and various Latin styles who deserve all the success they've had, as they amply demonstrated during two very different shows for very different crowds here in Los Angeles. The first show was at the Conga Room, the flashy Latin/salsa club co-owned by Jimmy Smits and JLo. Here, for a relatively sparse, sophisticated crowd (read: appreciative but unenthusiastic), Latin Project co-founders Jez Colin and Matt Cooper, assisted by a seven-member band, laid down a remarkably polished set showcasing nine of the ten tracks off their album, plus a superb cover of the Getz/Gilberto classic "Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)" that proved this group's dexterity with entirely acoustic material. The rest of the set featured a few samples, synths and programmed beats, but the focus was solidly on live musicianship, highlighted by two excellent lead vocalists, Joel Virgel and Katia Moraes, and the band's not-so-secret weapon, the virtuosic Matt Cooper. Cooper was the show's sparkplug, bouncing back and forth between keyboards and drum kit and playing both with furious, joyous precision. He's a marvel to watch. The second show was at a relatively new L.A. club called Shelter, as part of a free party sponsored by BPM Magazine (full disclosure: I also write for BPM, though I may not for long if anyone over there ever reads this). Shelter occupies a weird, rambling old house converted into a club space on the eastern edge of the Sunset Strip, the former home of the Coconut Teazer and a legendary afterhours club called Does Your Mama Know? A lot of memorable events have happened there over the years, but truth be told, it was a crappy venue back in the day and it's still a crappy venue now, with a spiffy new sign and steeper drink prices but nothing else to distinguish it from its old incarnation. It's low ceilinged, poorly lit and claustrophobic, and had nowhere near enough space to accommodate Latin Project, who had to set up lengthwise down one-half of the club's puny main room. They were a late addition to the lineup, the sole live act, sandwiched between DJ sets by local vinyl-slingers and members of the Icelandic band Gus Gus, who were the evening's main attraction. Yet despite all the obstacles -- not enough space, bad sound, technical glitches, a crowd that for the most part didn't know who the hell they were -- the band actually played a better, more entertaining set at Shelter, looser and more engaging than their slick Conga Room performance. This time, Katia and Joel really carried the evening, along with the band's excellent acoustic guitarist JB Eckl, who was practically sitting in the audience. All three sang and played with infectious warmth and enthusiasm, really drawing the crowd in until by the finale, half the room was engaged in some serious rump-shaking, which is no small feat when you're playing a cover of George Duke's jazz samba chestnut "Brazilian Love Affair" for a roomful of mostly white Hollywood types. Cooper was up there pounding away at the skins and the keys, but his presence was less dominant -- or at least to me it was, because from where I was standing, you could hardly see him. What really impresses me about the Latin Project as a live act is that both shows were so different and so good -- clearly, this is a group that isn't so hung up on the electronic aspect of its sound that it can't improvise a little and adapt the songs to suit the vibe. As a musical unit they have no weak spots -- even Francisco Tomaselli, who shared bass duties with Jez Colin at the Conga Room and seemed a little more tentative on his parts, had really settled in by the Shelter show, taking on full bass duties and playing everything with a little more energy and funk than was heard even on the original album versions. Percussionist Joey DeLeon and woodwind player Nathan Haines are exemplary, as well -- especially Haines, who's also a talented crossover jazz/house producer (his track "Earth is the Place" was a big club hit a few years back) and plays atop dance beats with a skill few other sax or flute players can match. Dance music is a fickle world and has produced more than its fair share of one-hit wonders over the years, so I'd be a fool to make any predictions about the Latin Project's future success. Which, maybe, is all the more reason why you should seek them out now, while they're riding high on "Lei Lo Lai" and really at the top of their game. This is one electronic-based act that does not coast along on samples and programmed beats.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

"I'm proud of coming in second for my high school's alumnus of the year award to Mitt Romney. I would've liked to have beaten him, but he has lost enough for a lifetime."

So what the living heck is the gang up to now? Well, they won't tell us, but boy is it exciting.

You see, for Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott, each new phase of their career is marked by some sort of wonderful thing. Their first two albums together under the band name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., gained a small but respectable cult following, but with 2015's self-titled re-envisioning, the guys streamlined their pop sensibilities into something that required a bigger studio budget, resulting in the biggest hit of their career with the song "Gone". They even placed in PopMatters Best Pop Album ranking for that year, which is no small feat.

Keep reading... Show less

Time has dulled the once vibrant approach of the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex.

When drummer Jimmy Chamberlin quit or was fired from the Smashing Pumpkins in 2009, he announced that he was going to focus his attention on the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex. This was good news. The Complex's 2005 debut Life Begins Again was freewheeling and colorful, filled to the brim with psychedelia, heavy pop, and heaping dose of post-rock. Billy Corgan was there, Rob Dickinson was there, even Bill Medley contributed to a track.

Keep reading... Show less
6
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image