Suenalo, the wonderful Miami fusion band, has a live recording out Suenalo! Live at Transit. Recorded at beloved downtown hangspot Transit Lounge, this cd is a great listen at what makes Suenalo so durable (they celebrate their 7th anniversary this year, long time for a band) and continually compelling live. Cause live is who they are. And this CD does an excellent job at capturing that.
First of all, they can ALL play. Right at this moment, I'm listening to Chad Bernstein, a Ph.D candidate at U of M, take a solo on the trombone, talking back and forth to Juan Turros on the sax, the two of them winding and punching through an elaborate musical dance that never loses its momentum or its swing, or disintegrates into noodling. The drums hit - that's JJ, formerly of Bacilos - and jack up the energy, Amin De Jesus raps in Spanish/English at breakneck speed, with urban intensity and Latin swing. It's an urban Latin jam band that sounds like a jazz big band, with funk and Cuban swing.
Jam bands can noodle, and wander, and lose their energy. Not Suenalo. Their energy is especially surprising given that they're democratic - composing and arranging is a communal, improvisational effort among the ten members (not to mention whoever might drop in, like Prince, yes, THAT Little Red Corvette Prince, did at a Jazid show last year.). I suspect that the urgency in their sound and rhythm has to do with almost (tho not all) of them being Latino, but that's not the whole answer to their sense of swing, the way they push the beat and keep it alive, like a top Cuban-from-Cuba dance band, instead of just being content to ride it. Suenalo plays like they're invested in every instant, but never so invested that they forget where they're going.
Sound on the Live at Transit CD, produced communally of course, is excellent: clear, clean, with the sound of the crowd and the room and the energy you get at one of Suenalo's live shows. They captured the way they sound when they actually play.
The Miami fusion sound that Suenalo helped pioneer has stayed with us since the early 00's, and it's one of the primary (tho not the only) sounds of Miami. The blend of Latin-funk-hiphop-reggae-more makes sense for this city, but a good idea doesn't necessarily equal good music. But Suenalo, and Locos Por Juana, and Spam AllStars, and others, keep playing and pulling in audiences.
"A lot of pop bands don't play - this band plays ten twelve times a month," Suenalo's manager Luis Gonzalez, who worked with reggaetonero Tego Calderone early on, told me. "I tell them 'you guys play and have fun, that's making it'. What is making it these days? That's very abstract. A lot of people trot all over the world with money from the label and at the end it's all promotion, it's not real. I tell them 'you guys are the truth.'
There's a lot to that, though I imagine for most musicians making it definitely includes not having to have a day (or extra night) job. So pick up the album, at iTunes, Sweat Records, the Suenalo website, at Transit Lounge, or best yet, at one of Suenalo's shows.