April 2006

Bio Ritmo

Listen to a few samples


La Hamaca

For more samples or to purchase CD click on album cover above
Bio Ritmo Salsa Machine
Presented by ComPosition
April 14, 2006Lula LoungeToronto
Vintage Beats and Molten Sheets of Lava
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
On the occasion of its first-ever performance in Toronto, The Bio Ritmo Salsa Machine demonstrated how aptly it is named. A machine it is, in the very best sense of the word — well-oiled and super-tight with percussion, instruments and voices perfectly meshed. A machine in the negative sense — formulaic, mechanical and predictable — it isn’t. What Toronto saw and heard was one living, breathing musical organism, a machine with body, soul, and mind, a bio-ritmo salsa machine.

Bio Ritmo started the night with a percussion-rich instrumental and Marlysse Simmons using the organ sound on her Roland. It was a taste of things to come, irresistible rhythms and unusual keyboard work. In the second piece, lead singer Rei Alvarez, added his voice to the mix. The third tune in, “Hermano” had the big classic New York-Puerto Rican salsa sound, but the coro singers coming in behind Rei Alvarez, and at times the horn arrangements had a sound I associate with Mexico via Western movies. Interesting. Hollywood did have some great arrangers and composers working for them.

Rei Alvarez makes a point of writing meaningful lyrics and “Hermano”, a song about the relationship between brothers seems to be one of his favourites. The dancers had warmed up nicely by this time and were filling the floor but, as during the rest of the evening, there were also many people simply listening to the lyrics and/or to the music, vintage salsa but with arresting new twists. No matter what this band did, you could dance to it, but sometimes you had to just listen and watch.

The set continued with a Charlie Palmieri tune, a percussive extravaganza with right-on horn shots and lots of room for Marlysse to play. A whole variety of Latin sounds appeared in the following songs, from Afro-Cuban, Columbian and even Brazilian. The only slow tune in the set was a jewel of soulful singing, with a lyrical trumpet and wonderful harmonies marched inexorably onward by stick-beaten timbales. Boleros and ballads need not be dragging or schmaltzy.

Still, overall, it was in the second set that the Salsa Machine really glowed with its own unique light. Even the most avid dancers stopped at times just to listen. At others, the experimentation on stage seemed to spur creative surges on the dance floor. This set featured some very hard-hitting salsa, some reggaeton currents, an exciting conga solo, some jaw-dropping work by Giustino Riccio on timbales, a stretch of Arabian perfect-for-belly-dancing rhythm, Afro-Cuban percussion with chant, salsa dripping with sensuality and a hint of rock. The psychedelic 60s and 70s with Korg synthesizer and Fender Rhodes sounds were hugely present but in the very best of ways. To put it mildly, I am not fond of most electronic keyboard and synthesizer 'effects' I’ve heard in Latin music, but this, in a word, was fabulous. It was clearly descended from Miles Davis at the Isle of Wight, Charlie Palmieri goes electric, Santana and Weather Report, even the Doors, but freshly adventurous.

Giustino Riccio

Jim Thompson

Marlysse Simmons
I heard that the originators of Bio Ritmo Salsa Machine, started as an experimental percussion trio with a Latin flavour who played music for a documentary on volcanoes and grew from there. Bio Ritmo Salsa Machine has now reached critical biomass and is exploding.
The current Bio Ritmo Salsa Machine is
Giustino Riccio – timbales
| Rei Alvarez – vocals | Gabo Tomasini – conga
Marlysse Simmons – keys
| Cameron Ralston – bass
Tim Lett – trumpet
| Bob Miller – trumpet & backup vox
Toby Whitaker – trombone
| Bryan Hooten – trombone (not present on this occasion)

Special guest for this performance
Jim Thompson – bongo (one of the original Bio Ritmo founders)


We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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