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La Cura – The Cure – started, stopped then started again recently. When I ask Vista conguero Ernie Becquer about this he corrects me. “We never really ended. It’s just, we were like in hover mode.” Becquer, with timbalero Giancarlo Anderson, a New York big band transplant represents the founding backbone of the band. “We were waiting for things to happen at clubs,” he says, and then corrects himself. “Actually, we really can’t play many clubs because we’re a big band.” The exception, he says, is the gaslamp’s Café Sevilla where La Cura will play one of their few local dates on October 27.

La Cura is a salsa band from the old school with 10 members. A big band means a big payroll, he says. “And the logistics of it. But we do it because we love this music. It’s our roots, our heritage. We want to keep it going.” Becquer compares their present sound to the roots salsa being played back in the 1970s, salsa tipico, he says, as developed by a bandleader named Ray Barretto. But the real roots of salsa – were they not back in the 1930s?

“Back in the ‘30s,” says Becquer, “that music was more like mambo.”

San Diego is possibly the one place on the mainland USA that is farthest from Cuba, the agreed-upon birthplace of salsa. And yet San Diego figures big in the westward expansion of salsa music from New York and Florida where it first took hold on these shores during the 1930s. Nationwide, salsa became a big fad, and it caught on here due to that giant melting pot of melting pots called the U.S. military.

To this day, salsa still looms large in local entertainment via salsa meetups, salsa dance nights at area hotel lounges and night clubs, free salsa dance lessons, salsa dance competitions, and a salsa newsletter: Siempre Salsa. As is to be expected for such a large enterprise, La Cura’s players, including three horns, three percussionists, bass, piano, and two singers are all hired guns from other salsa bands throughout Southern California north to Los Angeles, the current mecca of West Coast Latin music. With the exception of corporate gigs, there isn’t really enough work to keep a single salsa band well-fed. But the finished product, says Becquer, is worth the effort.

“When we’re swinging,” he says, “we’re like a well oiled machine. You can’t avoid dancing. In fact, if we play and you’re not moving, you gotta check yourself in to the ER,” he laughs, “because your heart has probably stopped working.” Image

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If I could elaborate a little on the Mambo of the 30's. One of my biggest inspirations musically was Israel "Cachao" Lopez. In the 30's he was already a legendary arranger/composer, composing literally 1000's of Mambo arrangements.
Cachao the inventor of Mambo, brought that sound to the United States in the 50's and it swept around the World. Here is a little fact. Cachao made such an impression on me, I named my youngest son Israel in Cachao's honor. Hope all you Reader Bloggers can come out and enjoy a wonderful evening of SALSA Music, October 27 at Cafe Sevilla.

Oct. 9, 2011

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