By Roy Kasten
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By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
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The music of New Orleans has always had a strong Caribbean and South American influence. Jelly Roll Morton used to call it the "Latin tinge," and you can still hear that sound in the loose-limbed second-line beat that powers everything from brass bands to funky R&B in the Big Easy.
But Sunday night at the Firehouse, you'll have the opportunity to hear some New Orleans musical influence headed the other way, as ¡Cubanismo!, one of Cuba's finest contemporary bands, performs tunes from its most recent recording, Mardi Gras Mambo on the Hannibal Records label.
The concept for the recording was put together by veteran record producer and Hannibal label founder Joe Boyd, and one listen to the recording indicates it's an idea that was way overdue. The crack Cuban band's horn section, led by ace trumpeter Jesus Alemany, packs plenty of Latin-jazz sizzle into New Orleans classics like "Iko Iko," "Shallow Water," "Mother-in-Law" and the title cut. And New Orleans vocalist John Boutté and musicians such as Donald Harrison, Wendell Brunious and Herlin Riley make sure the musical gumbo is plenty spicy.
On its current tour, ¡Cubanismo! is featuring Boutté and female singer Terry de Gruy to handle the tunes from Mardi Gras Mambo. But the band is performing a healthy selection of songs from previous recordings such as Reencarnacion as well.
By the way, if you already have plans to catch the Mingus Big Band at the Edison Theatre on Sunday, head down to the Firehouse afterward. Because the Mingus Big Band starts at 7 p.m., you can still catch most of ¡Cubanismo! afterward. You may not make it to work on time Monday, but your ears will benefit immensely from the experience.