Sauce it up: Bio Ritmo rolls in with salsa
At long last a band has come to rescue us from the same-old, same-old tedium of a lot of live acts in this locale, replacing the ‘90s pop dirge and banjo solos with something different!
All right, I’m a little biased (and mostly lying) because through my work I get exposed to most of the fine (and not so fine) acts this town has produced, and I sometimes hunger for something outside the Charlottesville box. I’m fairly confident that the salsa band Bio Ritmo, who will enliven the Outback Lodge on December 27, will fill the personal voids of many folks out there, including me.
Salsa, for those of you who did not take high school Spanish, means “sauce,” and has its roots in a style of Cuban dance music known as the “son,” which was devised in the latter half of the 19th century.
In the ‘40s and ‘50s, Arsenio Rodrigues, a Cuban bandleader, added conga drum, piano, and additional trumpets to the son’s standard guitar, bass, tres (a Cuban guitar with three pairs of strings), trumpet, bongos, maracas, and claves lineup. Puerto Rican immigrants in New York City are generally credited with taking Rodrigues’ version of Cuban dance music and creating salsa, but the differences between the two are points of conjecture among music scholars.
Bio Ritmo are an eight piece: Gabriel Tomasini on congas and percussion, Giustino Riccio on timbales, percussion, and vocals, Marlysse Simmons on keyboards, Bob Miller on trumpet, flugelhorn, and vocals, Tim Lett on second trumpet, Stefan Demetriadis on trombone, Johnny Sullivan on bass, and Rei Alvarez on lead vocals and percussion.
You can hear the group’s heavy emphasis on percussion tracks in their 1997 independent release Salsa Galactica (Permanent Records). On “Grande Y Chaquita,” the deep bass notes of the congas keep the on beat, while bongos and other percussive instruments swirl around it with consummate ease. The keyboards keep a steady, percussion-based beat as well, always right on and providing a melodious chord-structured background on which the horns can swing their melodies.
Formed in 1991 in Richmond, Bio Ritmo started as more of a “experimental art project than a… salsa band,” says former percussionist and founding member Jim Thomson. After attracting members like a snowball careening downhill, the group released its first disc, Que Suga La Musica, in 1996 to critical acclaim, shortly followed by the aforementioned Salsa Galactica.
1998 saw the release of Rumba Baby Rumba! on Mercury Records, and they will be releasing a new album in 2003.
The grand effect of eight talented gentlemen playing original salsa tunes is one of uncontrolled desire to shake, and since this is merely the effect their recordings have on me seated at home, one can only guess what will happen when they perform live. Should be a blast.
Bio Ritmo perform at Outback Lodge, Dec 27. $8, 10pm.