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.
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Texas Gentlemen Share the Powerful and Soulful "Last Call" (premiere)

Eclectic Texas band, the Texas Gentlemen return with a vibrant, imaginative LP that resists musical boundaries. Hear their latest epic single, "Last Call".

Music

Vincent Cross Pays Tribute to Folk Hero via "King Corcoran" (premiere)

Gangs of New York-era James "The Rooster" Corcoran was described as the terror of New York's east side. His descendent, Vincent Cross, retells his story with a "modern dark fairy tale".

Music

Eddy Lee Ryder Gets Lonely and Defiant with "Expected to Fly" (premiere)

Eddy Lee Ryder explores the loss of friendship and refusal to come of age, cloaked in the deeply dramatic and powerful song, "Expected to Fly".

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Film

Creative Disruption in 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

Portrait of a Lady on Fire yearns to burn tyrannical gendered tradition to ash and remake it into something collaborative and egalitarian.

Music

Fave Five: The Naked and Famous

Following two members leaving the group in 2018, synthpop mavens the Naked and Famous are down to a duo for the first time ever and discuss the records they turned to help make their aptly-named fourth record, Recover.

Evan Sawdey
Books

Fleetwood Dissects the European Mindset in His Moody, Disturbing Thriller, 'A Young Fair God'

Hugh Fleetwood's difficult though absorbing A Young Fair God offers readers a look into the age-old world views that have established and perpetuated cultural rank and the social attitudes that continue to divide us wherever we may reside in the world.

Music

Art Feynman Creates Refreshing Worldbeat Pop on 'Half Price at 3:30'

On Half Price at 3:30, Art Feynman again proves himself adept at building colorful worlds from unexpected and well-placed aural flourishes.

Music

The Beths Are Sharp As Ever on 'Jump Rope Gazers'

New Zealand power-poppers the Beths return with a sophomore album that makes even the most senior indie-rock acts feel rudimentary by comparison.

Music

Jessie Ware Returns to Form on 'What's Your Pleasure'

On What's Your Pleasure, Jessie Ware returns to where it all began, the dance floor.

Music

The Jayhawks Offer Us Some 'XOXO'

The Jayhawks offer 12-plus songs on XOXO to help listeners who may be alone and scared by reminding us that we are all alone together.

Music

Steve McDonald Remembers the Earliest Days of Redd Kross

Steve McDonald talks about the year that produced the first Redd Kross EP, an early eighth-grade graduation show with a then-unknown Black Flag, and a punk scene that welcomed and defined him.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.