Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Latin Quarter: Sambas, rhumbas, cha-cha-cha

It’s not like John Tavano really needs anything else to fill out his dance card. The guy's stretched pretty thin as it is. Performing with Rhina Espaillatt and Alfred Nichol in Melo Poea, the continuing music-meets-poetry series, and with soprano Ann Tucker, most recently in "The Ballad of San Isidro," a program also based on one of Espaillat's poems. He's also gearing up for a fall show with Polish pianist Malgosia  Smolarek, and preparing a new album of non-traditional Christmas music. And that's in addition to regular gigs as a classical guitarist, a staff musician with the Museum of Fine Arts, an instructor at The Musical Suite and as a portrait artist. But the way the Port guitarist figures it, what's the point of having a bunch of sweet sambas, rhumbas and bossa novas in your bag of musical tricks — and he's got them — if you don't have the means of getting them out there? So, about six months ago he assembled a team of local aces and revived the Latin Quarter, a Tavano project that had its last twirl on the dance floor about ten years ago. The ensemble, now a quartet, re-emerges with a new line-up for a weekend performance at the Actors Studio.

What to expect? Lyrical elegance and combustible rhythm. A strong rhumba-flamenco element, which might suggest something along the lines of the Gipsy Kings, right? Well, yes and no. "When we step on the tempo, things do get fiery like that group," says Roger Ebacher, the multi-instrumentalist probably best known for playing that crazy penny whistle soprano flute thing, who Tavano tapped as the project's percussionist. "But I think our stuff has more dynamic range and stylistic variety." And, of course, there's the fact that the Latin Quarter is instrumental. "It's not all caliente and high blood pressure," he says, "caliente," of course, a Spanish word meaning "hot" temperature-wise, but also nod-nod, wink-wink, having subtle sexual connotations. "There's also a beautiful sense of restraint and delicacy in some of the pieces to contrast with the real hot numbers. Within a broad style, the compositions are actually rather diverse, which points up another unique thing about the music — it's all original, and we are not a flamenco cover or tribute band."

In addition to Ebacher, who has just released "Salt Air," a new EP with The Air Department, his new band, the Latin Quarter features guitarist Benjamin Goldbaum,  a longtime guitar instructor at Haverhill Music Center who performs with Channel Vessel, and and bassist Paul Eddy, who currently performs in several Boston-area acts, including The Stimulantes.

The band performs at 3 p.m. Aug. 22 at the The Actor's Studio, 50 Water St., Tannery Mill #1, Suite #5. Tickets are $15, or $13 for students and seniors. Reservations are strongly suggested. For more information, call 978.465.1229.


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