September 9, 2011

Rene Lopez - Rockwood Hall (Stage 2) - September 7, 2011

I often to listen to WNYC radio when I'm at my 9-5 job. But I recently moved to a different part of my office and have had lots of trouble getting reception especially on rainy days. So, I suspect there was a little bit of divine intervention that allowed me to clearly hear Rene Lopez on the weekday 2PM radio show Soundcheck.

Lopez chooses to call his music and his first recording Electric Latin Soul (ELS) but what attracted me was the mixture of 60's/70's Rock, Soul and Salsa. There is something about the combination of those three styles,which when done well, feels very New York. During the radio show, Lopez made it clear that Rock and Soul music were what he was influenced by growing up. But there was also an influence he inherited from his father, a trumpeter and founding member the Latin group Tipica 73.

Lopez has been formulating his own style which is evident on his recording. However, many of the songs seemed influenced and personally reminded me of songs I grew up with such as "Spill The Wine"(Eric Burdon & War), "Superfly"(Curtis Mayfield),"Hijack" (Herbie Mann) and "Soul Finger" (The Bar-Kays).

I automatically noticed on Wednesday night, before the band even started playing that there were lots of percussion instruments on stage. There were timbales which Lopez eventually played front and center. And also a traditional drum kit, a conga set up and a sampler which was used for it's pads and sound effects. Once the band did start playing, all the drumming was what kept the music exciting but never percussively overbearing.

Rene Lopez opened up his set by rhythmically scraping on a guiro easing the band into the song "Everything We Do." With it's mid-tempo groove and a chorus of voices in unison, the song had a bit of the same flavor as Santana's "No One To Depend On." Yet, when Lopez sang his lead vocal his phrasing seemed more traditionally latin and more akin to Jose Felicano. Later in the song,Chris Eminizer played a dirty screeching sax solo as Lopez tapped out a rhythm on cowbell.

As Lopez tapped on the highhat that was attached to his timbales, guitarist David Hurwitz played a musical riff that lead the band directly into the next song,"I Flow." As the song progressed there were breaks in the music where Matt Becker played pads along with Lopez on timbales.

For the next song "Fa La La De Fa La," things really got going when Lopez took his jacket off and played timbales. As the song was ending, Lopez and conga player Emedin Rivera jammed out by trading off back and forth between the two percussion instruments.

Aside from Hurwitz playing some cool guitar lead on the next song "Honey Got Some Love," I had a good time watching the couple who broke out into some hardcore salsa dancing near the bar with spins and dips included. If it were any other performer, it may have seemed like the dancing couple were stealing focus. But actually, their dancing added some Nuyorican party ambiance to the hot musical atmosphere being generated on stage.

Lopez started off "L2 The Boogaloo" on timbales and during the song keyboardist Bryn Roberts took a really wonderful moog solo. More than anything else during the song, that grainy moog sound added to the 70's sound Lopez's music captures so well.

Before doing "Shing-a-ling Is What I Bring," (which is the song that reminds me of "Soul Finger"), Lopez looked around the room and said "This is a nice club, I'm not used to nice clubs." Wednesday night was also my first time in the Stage 2 space of Rockwood Hall's relatively new room and like the original room it's well done. The overall sound in the room was excellent considering, with the number of musicians on stage, it could have sounded like mush in such a small space.

As Lopez was about to introduce "Puerto Ricans In America," he said "I hope one day it will be blasting out at the Puerto Rican Day Parade." Lopez didn't speak too much on the Wednesday night but made fun of himself when he did by saying "My memory only works when I have a tequila; I wanted to say something and I forgot!" So, of course, someone bought him a tequila which he drank on stage but I'm not quite sure how much it refreshed his memory.

Lopez got the crowd to clap along as Hurwitz started "Johnny Wants To Be A Matador." Chris Eminizer took a flute solo which included a riff on the musical quote "take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me," from War's "Low Rider." Then Lopez said "You all feel this groove?" which segued into keyboard player, Bryn Roberts taking an organ solo on his Nord. I had heard the song live on radio and also it's recording but at Rockwood Hall the arrangement cooked.

Rene Lopez thanked everyone for coming before asking them to buy his CD. He said that he knew everyone didn't buy CDs anymore but to "buy one and give it to your grandmother or use it as coaster or something." Rene Lopez has a really good CD but, as with salsa music, Lopez's music definitely has to be heard live.

Lopez's last song is not on his new CD. When I heard it, I wasn't sure if it was a new song that didn't make the CD or an old one that didn't fit. I should have asked when I spoke to him at the end of the show but I forgot. (Maybe I needed a tequila!) The song was "Love It, Feel It, Sing it" and oddly enough all of Lopez's vocal chops came out for that last song. Vocally and emotionally it was the best song of the night - hands down. Maybe it's bit old school, to pull out the stops at the end of a show instead of continuously through - but as audience member, it worked for me. I look forward to hearing a lot more from Rene Lopez in the future.

Set List
1. Everything We Do
2. I Flow
3. Fa La La De Fa La
4. Honey Got Some Love
5. L2 The Boogaloo
6. Shing-a-ling Is What I Bring
7. Puerto Ricans In America
8. E.L.S.
9. Feeling Something Good
10.Johnny Wants To Be A Matador
11. Love It, Feel It, Sing It

The Band members are:
Rene Lopez - Vocals/Timbales
David Hurwitz - Guitar
Bill Dobrow - Drums
Chris Eminizer - Tenor Sax & Flute
Brett Bass - Bass
Matt Becker - ELS Sound Effects
Bryn Roberts - Keys
Emedin Rivera - Percussion

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