Authors Posts by Lily O'Brien

Lily O'Brien


Family-like Luvplanet mixes musical styles

Luvplanet’s tunes, according to guitarist, singer and songwriter Mark McGee, are about “everyday life—love, friends, relationships and meaningful things that make you think.” Photo courtesy of Luvplanet.

By Lily O’Brien

In an era when ’60s and ’70s tribute bands are all the rage (particularly this year, the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love), it’s refreshing to find Luvplanet, a Petaluma-based band that draws its influences from bands of that time—Led Zeppelin, the Who and the Rolling Stones—but plays all original music. Voted Marin’s Best Band in 2016 by Pacific Sun readers, Luvplanet plays on Saturday, June 17 at Smiley’s Saloon in Bolinas.

“Basically we’re a rock band with a lot of pop ingredients and harmony vocals, but we like our psychedelic music and we like our blues and our country and we just try to mix it all together,” says guitarist, singer and songwriter Mark McGee. “Diversity is something you can always expect from us.”

Luvplanet was founded in 2003 when a friend invited McGee to sit in on a recording session with singer/songwriter and guitarist Nicole Sutton. They ended up connecting both personally and musically, and after a couple of years of friendship and musical collaboration came marriage. “We did the unthinkable and crossed the line,” McGee says with a laugh.

“Our music is so much about the energy, the vibe—there’s a feeling in the room,” he continues.

Luvplanet, which also includes bass player Tommy Sisco and drummer Michael Amos, is like a family. “You realize after doing this for awhile that the ‘hang’ portion is really important,” McGee says. “You have to enjoy the people you are spending all this time with. Luvplanet is probably the most genuine thing I’ve ever done.”

McGee says that the band has big dreams, and would like to be touring full-time.

“We love doing the music—we love the art of it,” he says, “and we feel like there’s something big waiting for us.”

Luvplanet, Saturday, June 17, Smiley’s Saloon, 41 Wharf Road, Bolinas; 9pm; 415/868-1311; smileyssaloon.com.

David Lindley adds Middle Eastern twist to traditional folk and blues

“I was interested in all kinds of banjos and Middle Eastern instruments, and I started incorporating that into bluegrass and string band music,” says multi-instrumentalist David Lindley. Photo courtesy of Dynamic Artists Management.

By Lily O’Brien

Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist David Lindley was deeply immersed in the 1960s Los Angeles music scene, a hotbed of creativity full of aspiring musicians—many of whom would go on to become stars. A highly sought after session player, Lindley has performed with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Taj Mahal, Kenny Loggins, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor and more.

“It’s because I could fit in—and sit in—instantly,” Lindley says, crediting his success partially to his sincere and collaborative approach to playing music. “It isn’t just about playing at the same time on the stage with someone, but to be absorbed in the song and be part of the song and add to the meaning of it and augment it, and I consciously do that.”

Deeply inspired by a story—regarding the difference between communicating from the heart and from the brain—in a book by 20th century spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff, Lindley says, “You can tell when people are playing just from the brain, and you can also tell when people are playing just from the heart, and the best combination is when you put both of them together.”

Lindley is full of anecdotes from the early days—he met Jackson Browne, who was just 16, through a mutual friend who owned a club on Ventura Boulevard called the Magic Mushroom, where Browne would sometimes play. The house band at the time was named Hour Glass—better known today as the Allman Brothers Band. Lindley gave Browne a ride home and the friendship began.

“It was real easy to play with Jackson,” Lindley says, “because his harmonic sense was real logical and linear and you could kind of figure out where the chord changes were.”

Lindley first started playing bluegrass on a five-string banjo, and over the years, his keen interest in string instruments inspired him to become proficient in a long list of eclectic instruments, including fiddle, mandolin, guitar and many from the Middle East. Currently on a solo tour and making a stop at Sweetwater Music Hall on Sunday, May 28, Lindley says that the most important thing to him right now is to always be open to learning new things.

“The main thing is being in student mode,” he says. “I recognized that that’s the way to go—I think I am on the right path.”

David Lindley, Sunday, May 28, Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; 415/388-3850; sweetwatermusichall.com.

Blues guitarist John Maxwell gets a fresh start

Singer, songwriter and guitarist John Maxwell puts his own spin on early Chicago blues tunes. Photo by Roger Jones.

By Lily O’Brien

In the early ’20s and ’30s, a lot of great blues came out of Chicago, launching careers for performers like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. So it’s no great surprise that blues guitarist and singer John Maxwell, who was born and raised there, is the real deal. On Friday, May 12, he takes the stage at Rancho Nicasio with his deep delta blues.

Maxwell, master of acoustic fingerstyle, bottleneck slide guitar, lived in San Rafael and drove a Golden Gate Transit bus for 30 years. He retired last June, and a month later, moved to Port Townsend, Washington with his new sweetheart.

“It was a rebirth of sorts,” Maxwell says, noting that he’s now able to concentrate on music full-time.

Maxwell chose Port Townsend for two reasons: He wanted to spend time with his 92-year-old dad who lives there, and he was attracted to the city’s vibrant music scene.

“I’d been coming up here for years to the Port Townsend Music Festival, so when it came time for me to decide where to move, I couldn’t think of any place better than this,” Maxwell says. “It’s really beautiful, with a lot of music and creative people.” He adds that it is also a lot less crowded and expensive than the Bay Area.

Maxwell didn’t take up the guitar until he was 15, after seeing a B.B. King concert. His older brother, he says, was already listening to Chicago blues, and it “filtered down” to him. Maxwell began studying slide guitar at a local folk music school, and eventually made the decision to study music formally.

“I was going to college in St. Louis, and at the time, the music department was strictly classical,” he says. “I was attempting to learn theory and composition, but after two years, I realized that I couldn’t really apply that to what I wanted to do.”

So Maxwell quit school and moved around—playing bluegrass and country music in Tulsa, forming a punk band in San Francisco called Eye Protection and playing R&B in Minneapolis. But a phone call from a friend, asking him to move back to San Francisco to put a new band together, lured him back. He also gradually returned to his original passion—old-time Chicago blues.

“I think a lot of what I do is pretty traditional blues, but I come at it from a little bit of a different angle, because of all the things that I have done over the years” says Maxwell, who has opened shows locally for blues performers like Roy Rogers, Susan Tedeschi and Ruthie Foster. “For instance, if I take an old song from the ’30s, I’m not going to try to reproduce what they did. I’m going to take the idea and come up with my own arrangement, with a little bit more of a personal touch on it.”

Maxwell’s signature style is evident on his 2014 recording, Blues for Angeline, a mix of originals and old blues tunes.

These days, Maxwell is playing a 2015 steel body National Tricone guitar, a retirement present to himself, along with his old 1929 National Triolian guitar, which he calls his “pride and joy.” He also plays blues mandolin.

“A lot of people are really surprised to hear blues mandolin—it gets their attention,” Maxwell says. “But it has a long, long history back to the early part of the century with the early string bands.”

Maxwell has 15 shows booked in the Pacific Northwest this month, “which is like 15 times more than I used to get in the Bay Area,” he says with a laugh. He’s also currently writing songs for a new CD, which will feature “older gems” from the ’20s and ’30s.

Though in some ways Maxwell, who will turn 62 in September, wishes that he could have devoted more time to music a lot sooner in life, he says that it all worked out just fine.

“I can’t say that I really regret the choices I made,” he says. “I would have had a very different life if I would have been able to pursue music full-time from day one. But I think maybe in a sense I can enjoy it even more now, having been through so many years of driving buses—it feels really special now.”

John Maxwell, Friday, May 12, Rancho Nicasio, 1 Old Rancheria Road (on the Town Square), Nicasio; 8pm; free; 415/662-2219; ranchonicasio.com.

Trio joins forces in The Battlefield

Indie folk-rock band The Battlefield (L-R, Jenny Weaver, James Addison and Matt Ducey, with drummer JJ Moser) got the inspiration for its name from the Pat Benatar song, “Love is a Battlefield.” Photo by Juan Monsalvez.

By Lily O’Brien

“I think sometimes the best art and the best music comes from inner conflict and turmoil,” says Matt Ducey, one of the three singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalists who comprise The Battlefield, a Los Angeles-based Americana, indie folk-rock, Fleetwood Mac-inspired band. The band will be performing at the Folkish Festival at the Marin Country Mart on Sunday, April 16.

Ducey grew up in San Anselmo, and at 9 years old began acting and singing in local school and community musicals and choirs. When he was a junior in high school, he was invited to become one of the founding members of ’Till Dawn, a teen a cappella group at the San Rafael nonprofit Youth in Arts.

After studying drama and music at San Francisco State University, Ducey moved to L.A. to give professional acting a shot, and also began performing and recording original music. In 2013, he met James Addison, a fellow struggling musician and actor, and crossed paths with Jenny Weaver, who was working on a debut album.

“It was perfect timing for all of us to connect,” Ducey says. “All of a sudden we were doing some really significant three-part harmonies—with such ease, and the blend was just really solid.”

The trio began performing together, and in 2015 released their first album, The Tipping Point, comprised of original songs. In 2016, the band toured from coast-to-coast. The show in Marin, which Ducey suspects will draw lots of friends and family, will feature drummer JJ Moser, along with multiple instruments—acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, mandolin harmonica and more.

“Continually things just get better and better,” Ducey says, “and cool opportunities are coming up.”

The Battlefield, Sunday, April 16, Folkish Festival, Marin Country Mart, 2257 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur; 12:30pm; free; 415/461-5700; marincountrymart.com.

Snowapple debuts in Marin

Snowapple performs in extravagant outfits designed by fashion artist Mo Benchellal. Photo courtesy of Snowapple.

By Lily O’Brien

“In this band we have the freedom to do what we want to do and go where we wanna go,” says Laurien Schleuder, one of the three female singers/instrumentalist/songwriters making up the Amsterdam-based band Snowapple.

Having just arrived in the U.S. for a West Coast tour—and promoting a new, third album, Tracks—the band will be making its first ever Marin appearance on Thursday, March 23 at Sausalito’s Harmonia—located in the legendary former Record Plant recording studio.

With musical backgrounds that include such diverse styles as opera, jazz, Latvian folk music, Brazilian pop and gospel, and drawing inspiration from song stylists like Edith Piaf, Tom Waits and the Andrews Sisters, the trio is hard to place in any one genre. “We like to create our own sound, using elements from different music styles,” says Schleuder, who describes the band’s sound as “fairy-tale folk/dream-pop/improv, with a dash of cumbia.”

On this tour Snowapple is minus one—Una Bergin opted to stay behind with her 1-year-old son. But Schleuder (vocals and guitar) and Laura Police (vocals, keyboard, flute), will be joined by three Mexican musicians, adding “Latin grooves and lots of positive energy.”

The women of Snowapple, Schleuder says, were “naturally drawn together,” writing original songs inspired by world travels and sung mostly in English. Tracks is a “train-themed album with brand new songs about travelling between nostalgia and longing,” Schleuder says.

“I think it is an interesting blend of things, but it comes together very naturally,” Schleuder says of Snowapple’s music. “We don’t think about being different, we’re just constantly looking for new and beautiful things and moments. Both in music—and life in general.”

Snowapple, Thursday, March 23, Harmonia, 2200 Marinship Way, Sausalito; 7:30pm; $20-$25; 415/332-1432; harmoniamarin.com.

Jai Uttal creates a divine blend of musical styles

Jai Uttal, who combines kirtan with world beats, says that he was one of the first musicians to blend Indian music into the world music scene. Photo by Jeffery Newbury.

By Lily O’Brien

“My musical path has been a journey of dichotomies,” says world music artist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer Jai Uttal. Having just completed his 17th CD (one was nominated for a Grammy), Roots, Rock, Rama!, a blend of reggae, jazz, Indian, samba and rock ’n’ roll, Uttal will be celebrating its release with a performance at Spirit Rock Meditation Center on Saturday, March 18.

“I feel like it’s an expression of everything I’ve done–50 years of the practice of singing kirtan,” Uttal says of his latest work, by telephone from his Marin home. Kirtan, he explains, is the call-and-response practice of chanting ancient Sanskrit mantras, accompanied by music. “Every new musical color opens up an emotional color, which opens up the spiritual connection.”

Uttal, the son of a record company executive, grew up in New York. As a teenager, he got “deeply turned on” to Appalachian banjo music, but during high school, in the ’60s, was drawn to psychedelic rock—particularly that of Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. Hanging out in Greenwich Village record stores led to the discovery of Indian classical, folk and devotional music. On the guitar, Uttal would jam along to recordings by Indian sarode master Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

Hearing Khan live at a concert in Portland rocked Uttal’s world. “That concert just turned me inside out and blew my mind and blew my heart and everything that I felt that I knew about life and about music just got turned upside down,” he says.

In 1969 Uttal moved to the Bay Area and began studying sarode and voice with Khan at the Ali Akbar School of Music. Around 1971, he began playing with a reggae band (on guitar), and eventually formed his own world fusion band, the Pagan Love Orchestra.

“We really had an amazing reputation because in a lot of ways I was the first one to be blending this Indian music into the world music scene,” Uttal says.

These days, Uttal divides his time between performing at festivals, running kirtan camps with his wife and leading kirtan workshops at yoga studios-turned-venues all over the country.

“We’re going to raise the roof at Spirit Rock,” Uttal says of the upcoming CD release party. “It’s going to be a full-on dancing and singing experience.”

Jai Uttal, Saturday, March 18, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, 5000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Woodacre; 8pm; sliding scale, $20-$100; 415/488-0164; spiritrock.org.

Wake the Dead plays Grateful Dead songs with an Irish twist

East Bay-based Wake the Dead plays Irish folk arrangements of Grateful Dead tunes that are lively, folksy and dance-friendly. Photo courtesy of Wake the Dead.

By Lily O’Brien

Wake the Dead describes itself as “the world’s only Celtic all-star Grateful Dead jam band.”  

“The Celtic aspect was just a happy accident,” says Paul Kotapish, co-founder of the band, which, along with Grateful Dead tunes, plays songs from the Summer of Love era fused with traditional Irish folk music. Think classic Dead songs like “Box of Rain” and “Dark Star” played—complete with fiddle, mandolin and Irish bagpipes—as though you were hearing them while sitting in a pub in Ireland. The band takes the Sweetwater stage on Thursday, March 16—appropriately, St. Patrick’s Day eve.

Kotapish (mandolin, vocals) says that he had been playing bluegrass and old-time fiddle music for a while when he got hooked on Irish music at a folk festival in 1976. “I listened to those jigs and reels and just had to learn them,” he says.

Around 2000, Kotapish joined forces with Danny Carnahan (octave mandolin, fiddle, vocals), who shared the vision of making a recording of Dead songs with a more gentle, acoustic approach. “In our minds, that made a lot of sense given the deep folk roots the Dead—especially Jerry—were steeped in,” Kotapish says.

The musicians soon brought in others who shared their love of both the Grateful Dead and traditional Irish music, and “it just kind of fell into place without a lot of thinking,” Kotapish says. “We knew we didn’t want to try to compete with or emulate the kind of open-ended jamming that made the Dead so unique, but we wanted the songs to take off and go somewhere else during the interludes.”

Kotapish says that Wake the Dead’s all-ages audiences are “a wonderful mashup of Deadheads, folkniks, pop music fans and Irish-music enthusiasts,” but most in the crowd are probably old enough to remember when the band’s repertoire was brand new. “It’s material that seems timeless to us.”

Wake the Dead, Thursday, March 16, Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; $20-$22; 415/388-3850; sweetwatermusichall.com.

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Preserving the heritage of an iconic architect

The design of the interior of the administration building at the Marin County Civic Center elegantly combines inner and outer space. Photo by Lily O’Brien.

By Lily O’Brien

“The first time I saw the [Marin County] Civic Center, I thought it looked like something from outer space,” says longtime San Rafael resident and Frank Lloyd Wright-trained architect Bill Schwarz. That was back in the early ’60s, and little did he know that this iconic building, and the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, would become the focus of his architectural career—and his lifelong passion. We chatted about all things Frank Lloyd Wright recently while we toured the center’s administration building and hall of justice.

Schwarz was doing graduate work for an advanced degree in architecture at Stanford University when he became interested in Frank Lloyd Wright and decided to take a year off in 1965 to study at Taliesin, Wright’s home-turned-architecture school in Wisconsin. The experience there turned out to be life-changing.

When he returned to the Bay Area in 1969, Schwarz was invited to work in the offices of architect Aaron Green, a senior student of Frank Lloyd Wright who had directed the completion of the Marin County Civic Center after Wright’s death in 1959. In 1972, Schwarz established his own architectural practice in San Rafael, and was hired by the Civic Center as an associate architect for Taliesin Architects and representative of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to work on various projects.

Fast-forward to 2016, and Schwarz is co-chairing the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy’s annual conference, taking place on November 2-6 in San Francisco. In addition to attending dinners and lectures over the course of the five days, the more than 200 attendees will be touring selected Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the Bay Area, including his largest, the Marin County Civic Center.

Schwarz, who calls Wright a “genius,” is passionate about the way Wright designed the Civic Center. He said that when Wright came to look at the site in the 1950s, “after about 15 minutes he said, ‘Aaron [Green], I know what I’m going to do here. I’m going to bridge one of these hills with the others and build a series of graceful arches and build the buildings on those arches,’ and this was a very profound concept.”

Schwarz explained that Wright’s structures are not necessarily defined by a style, but rather by “a philosophical principle underpinning his work.” These principles include the unification of interior and

Bill Schwarz stands in front of a window of the former Marin County Gift Shop that he designed. It now houses a mini-museum. Photo by Lily O'Brien.
Bill Schwarz stands in front of a window of the former Marin County Gift Shop that he designed at the Civic Center. Photo by Lily O’Brien.

exterior space, and designing flexible spaces that can adapt to the needs of its occupants. And of course, there is the artistic component.

“He had an uncannily poetic gift,” Schwarz says. “I think that’s why people warm up to it and relate to it—it reaches them. It reaches all of us because we are all human beings. And frankly, this gift resides in all of us. He just developed it very skillfully as an architect.”

And the Civic Center is a showcase for Wright’s “gifts.” Over the years, Schwarz has spearheaded and designed numerous projects, and advocated against many that he thought would compromise the beauty and integrity of the design—and won.

Last year, the Civic Center was nominated to become inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with a group of other Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. At a recent meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Istanbul, committee members expressed the sentiment that Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture had global importance, and should be recognized for its “outstanding universal value.” Needless to say, receiving this designation would be quite a coup for Marin County.

The conservancy provided the extensive documentation and paperwork required for the application. The nonprofit was founded in 1989 in Chicago by a group of “extremely impassioned” people who are dedicated to preserving and maintaining, “the remaining structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright through education, advocacy, preservation easements and technical services.” With thousands of members and supporters worldwide, it has been quite successful.

With only a three-person full-time staff, a board of directors and volunteers, the conservancy, Schwarz says, has initiated design easements on numerous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings to preserve their design integrity, and has saved many Wright buildings from being demolished.

Other accomplishments include expert technical conservation and restoration advice, and introducing Wright’s work to new audiences.

Along with co-chairing the upcoming conference, Schwarz will be receiving a prestigious Wright Spirit Award (the only Marin resident among five recipients), at a banquet dinner during the event. He was nominated for the award by his wife of 50 years, Patricia. In her introductory letter, she wrote, “Bill has been the Unsung Hero of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center,” and that since 1969 he has provided “unparalleled professional expertise, coupled with a staggering degree of persistent, heartfelt vigor” to advocate for and ensure that the buildings are preserved “in manners consistent and in harmony with Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy and sensibilities.”

Apparently, the conservancy agreed, and chose the “Special” award category for him. “Bill has done so many things, you can’t just point to one,” says Joel Hoglund, events manager for the conservancy. “The award is a culmination of decades and decades of service to Frank Lloyd Wright.”

Schwarz’s motivation has always stemmed purely from his passion. “It has been the core of my professional activity for more than 40 years,” he says, “and the center of my heart.”

Performing came naturally for Mia Rose Lynne

On top of singing in Nashville, Mia Rose Lynne, a Novato native, supports herself with gigs that include dressing up as a princess and singing at kids’ birthday parties. Photo by Kelsey Cherry Photography.

By Lily O’Brien

Singer, guitarist and songwriter Mia Rose Lynne is the first to admit that she doesn’t know exactly what to call her genre of music—so she just calls it “folk Americana.” The Novato native has a sweet, clear singing voice, decorated with just a bit of a country/bluegrass warble, probably the result of living in Nashville, Tennessee for the past four years.

Lynne grew up in a musical family—her parents, Barrie and Annie Ernst, perform bluegrass and Western swing. When they discovered that their daughter had a great ear for harmony, they made her part of their act. Her sister also sang with them, and Lynne says they were kind of like the “Von Ernst Family just traveling around and doing gigs.”

Lynne is back home for a month of gigs around the Bay Area, with her mom on string bass and her sister singing harmonies for some of them. “It’s definitely a family affair,” Lynne says.

Teaching herself to play guitar, Lynne initially learned to sing by listening to the Disney princesses, whom she was “obsessed” with as a child. But her first passion was theater, so after majoring in musical theater at Cal State Fullerton, she moved to New York City to give it a try. She ended up snagging a job on a cruise ship as part of a musical revue for a couple of years.

Lynne then landed a job in Nashville, which she soon discovered was not only a hub for up-and-coming musicians, but had a thriving theater scene as well. So she got involved with both.

For her 25th birthday, a bass player friend took Lynne into the studio to record one of her songs—and she got “hooked.” In 2014, she recorded Open Space, an album of original songs, and in January of this year, she made another titled Follow Me Moon.

Lynne says that in Nashville, many people pump out hits, but she only writes songs when she feels inspired—with lyrics from her heart. “I’ve tried to write more edgy stuff,” Lynne says, but admits that, “it just doesn’t come naturally to me.”

She acknowledges that a performer’s life can be financially unstable, but that she “wouldn’t trade it for anything.” And although Lynne would love to “make it,” she’s happy living in Nashville and working as a singer/songwriter and in theater. “I’m so lucky—I get to do both,” she says.

Mia Rose Lynne performs on Friday, July 15 at Trek Winery, 1026 Machin Ave., Novato; 415/899-9883. For a full list of Bay Area appearances, visit miaroselynne.com.

A taste of Cuba in Sausalito

Orquesta La Moderna Tradición plays a mix of modern and traditional Cuban dance music. Photo courtesy of Kike Arnal.

By Lily O’Brien

Imagine that you’re walking along the Malecón, the scenic waterfront walkway that stretches for five miles along the seawall in Havana, Cuba. You can almost hear the sound of the waves hitting the beach, and in the background, the distant sounds of a swaying Latin melody backed by an Afro-Cuban beat. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to travel to Cuba—just head to the Sausalito Seahorse on Sunday night and dance to the sounds of Orquesta La Moderna Tradición.

The original group was founded in the early ’90s by Tregar Otton, a violinist, along with several other original members of the band, and Robert Borrell, a well-known Cuban instrumentalist and dancer from Havana, who had hundreds of dance students who needed a place to dance. At that time, the band played mostly danzón music, which was derived from the music brought to Cuba from Haiti in the late 1700s. Orquesta is one of the only bands in the world that still plays this kind of music.

Along with playing violin, Otton arranges the music and manages the band. He says that when Borrell left around 1995, he took the band in another direction. “Danzón is mostly instrumental,” Otton says by telephone from his home in Pacifica, “so we got some other Cubans in the group and changed the focus from mostly danzónes to include other types of Cuban music.”

Otton says that one of the things that makes them unique is the variety of music they play. “A lot of salsa bands—the tempos and style of music is real similar,” Otton says.  “But you come hear us and we will play fast stuff and then we’ll throw in a danzón, which is slower and more elegant than a cha cha cha.”

Another thing that sets Orquesta apart is that they do a variation on the traditional salsa band instrumentation—conga drums, timbales, hand percussion, piano, bass, a rhythm section and vocalists. Otton says that most Cuban salsa bands use trumpets and brass, whereas Orquesta features two violins and a clarinet, giving them a much sweeter, mellower sound. “But the music does groove and does have a strong Afro-Cuban influence,” he adds.

Orquesta La Moderna Tradición plays at the Seahorse on Sunday, Feb. 9 (and the first Sunday of every month) from 5-10pm; $10; 305 Harbor View Drive, Sausalito; 415/331-2899.



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