The Best of iFest's Second Weekend: Aaron Neville, Sergent Garcia, Grupo Fantasma, etc.
Thinking I would snag an early seat for Aaron Neville's performance at the Bud Light World Stage, I instead had the great fortune of running into the end of Sergent Garcia, a French artist who blends Latin melodies and Caribbean beats into something I couldn't walk away from Sunday evening.
Houston is a city known for its fusion food scene, mashing together supposedly separate cultures into tasty cuisines (check out Happy Endings, a Korean/Japanese fusion food truck for proof), so why can't music get in on the fusion fun?
It's no wonder why Garcia's sound was so welcomed: It's an alchemy of Spanish-spoken songs backed by Jamaican reggae beats, which explained the scores of couples dry-humping rhythmically in the city's post-storm humidity. Garcia uttered the word "cumbia" seconds before the advent of a song featuring maracas, trumpets, bass drums and hip-thrusting women, which led me to assume that the word was tied to some kind of mating dance, and that the majority of his pulsating songs settled around the same. Later research confirmed that cumbia, a style fusing Hispanic, African and Colombian cultures, was indeed part of a historic courtship ritual. ALTAMESE OSBORNE
Jovino Santos Neto
Seattle pianist Jovino Santos Neto, a Brazilian emigre who worked extensively with one of the country's most legendary musicians, composer/multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal, had his highly-anticipated Saturday show with former Houston jazz queen Kellye Gray washed away by the monsoon rains. But Neto, a world-class music educator as well as performer, took full advantage of what was supposedly a "workshop set" Sunday on the small H-E-B Cultural Stage to showcase his talents.
Neto assembled a highly qualified quartet, anchored by Houston jazz stalwart Sebastian "Bash" Whittaker on drums, for the educational set. Local guitarist Michael Anthony Shanks, playing what looked like a Brazilian four-stringed cavaquinho, and Neto's Seattle percussionist Jeff Busch completed the group with the leader providing piano, flute and a little melodica as well.
Neto provided entertaining insights with his discussions of the music but it was the demonstrations that made the set an eminently enjoyable master class, even to the musicians in the audience, who included Matuto's Rob Curto and Clay Ross. A simple demonstration of syncopation, with some Texas blues chords thrown in to localize the sound, evolved into a free-flowing exercise in virtuosity that may have been the jazziest musical segment of the festival.
Other demonstrations, each featuring condensed flashes of instrumental excellence, were equally rewarding, making the learning experience both pleasurable and profound. MICHAEL POINT