Los Hombres Calientes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Los Hombres Calientes

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When most people think of New Orleans's heritage, they think of the French influence, which mark everything from street names to Cajun music to the city's cuisine. But the city's culture stems as much from its Spanish influence, which runs thick and fast through the work of Los Hombres Calientes, the irresistible musical tidepool presided over by kid trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, still in his mid-20s, and veteran percussionist Bill Summers, who was playing with Herbie Hancock's band the Headhunters in the early 70s. Using a variable lineup that draws on a host of other percussionists, pianist Victor Atkins, and saxists Aaron Fletcher and Devin Phillips, Los Hombres have reinvigorated New Orleans jazz with what the music's godfather, Jelly Roll Morton, once called "the Spanish tinge." Their fourth and latest album, Voudou Dance (Basin Street), opens with a Haitian-style chant that celebrates and tweaks the ceremonial rites associated with black magic; it proceeds to incorporate musical traditions encountered by Mayfield and Summers on recent tours of Jamaica, Trinidad, and Cuba, weaving them in and out of more familiar sounds, from Mardi Gras parade beats to swaying bossa nova rhythms. Los Hombres have moved over the years from standard-issue record albums, with nine or ten discrete tunes, to album-length suites that command a listener's attention pretty much straight through. The most ambitious yet, Voudou Dance contains 27 listed tracks, ranging from brief (less than a minute) folk-percussion flares to full-blown performances of five or seven minutes, and the disc is peppered with atmospheric vocal interludes--a recipe for concert performances that carry the aura of theater. It's terrific stuff on every level. Los Hombres Calientes appear as part of a Latin-jazz triple bill that includes Chilean-born vocalist Claudia Acuna as well as the Big 3 Palladium Orchestra, featuring the sons of two legendary Latin bandleaders, Tito Puente Jr. and Mario Grillo (whose father was best known as Machito). Saturday, June 14, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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