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New York Cool - Music

B-Side Players
Canal Room
September 27, 2007

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo: Solrak of B-Side Players

 

 


 

Walk down the street in Manhattan and ask any random person what springs to mind when you say “Music in New York” and you’ll get a wide range of answers. In the Lower East Side a lot of people might still look at the space where CBGBs used to be and say punk rock. In the Bronx and Brooklyn you’ll find many who are still connected to the roots of hip-hop. Harlem residents might wonder how anybody would say anything other than jazz. One answer you’re less likely to get is reggae-influenced rock and hip-hop with a healthy infusion of Latin rhythms. Unless, that is, you happened to wander by the Canal Room when the B-Side Players and their two opening acts were in town. In that case, pop-tinged reggaeton might be all people were talking about.

First openers Cipes and the People offered a pleasant enough set of airy reggae-based light rock that was only marred by the singer’s tendency to mimic the annoyingly nasal crooning of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. Worse, like most that sing in this register he seemed to worry more about hitting his notes than conveying any kind of real emotion in his voice. When he dips into lower keys the slight vibrato in his voice in front of excellent backing vocals highlight the group’s solid instrumentations and they would do well to extract a lot of the pop from their music to let a little soul peak out.

Up next was the Salvador Santana Band led by the son of the guitar legend.
Mixing several different styles — including hip-hop, reggaeton, Latin dance, funk and even gospel — the band crafted an incredible deep and complex sound that was easy to instantly fall in love with. It was infectious, fun, addictive dance music to make anybody want to get up and move. The saxophone/bongo player and primary keyboard player shared singing duties with Santana (who also plays keys at times) and each brought a unique style to the music blending seamlessly into an innovative, compelling whole. As performers the group was polished and confidant though Santana could certainly tighten his delivery a bit when he rapped.

As the second openers left the audience abuzz and eager for more, the B-Side Players took the stage and gave them exactly what they wanted. Not quite as boisterous the Salvador Santana Band, the night’s headliners brought the one element that had so far been missing: pure soul in everything they did. Every breath blown into a horn, every pluck of the guitar string and every note that came out of lead singer SOLRAK’s mouth meant something and everyone in the club could feel it. They played the purest reggae of the night though still blending funk rhythms and Latin grooves into their overall sound. They were solid, explosive and larger than life, embarking on a quest for harmony and taking each of us with them on their fantastic journey.

The B-Side Players and their supporting acts sought to enlighten, engage and entertain and succeeded on all counts. They moved feet and they moved hearts during their all-too brief stay in downtown Manhattan. As the last notes faded into the cool evening those in attendance were left in the small club with possibly weary feat but completely energized spirits. And really, who can ask for more than that?

 


Solrak of B-Side Players


B-Side Players



Solrak of B-Side Players

 


Solrak of B-Side Players


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