September 2007

Pedrito Calvo and Hilario Duran
Presented by: Lula Lounge and Havanarte Productions
in association with Billy Bryans and OKOKAN
September 30, 2007Lula LoungeToronto
Cuban Summit
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
Pedro Calvo is one of Cuba’s cultural icons. Now leader of his own band, La Nueva Justicia, Pedro Calvo came to fame as the lead singer of Los Van Van, one of the most famous Cuban groups in that small island’s vast musical history. Calvo also sang with the Buena Vista Social Club and The Afro-Cuban All-Stars. Teaming him up with Cuban-born pianist/composer/bandleader Hilario Duran proved to be a winning combination. Their show at Lula Lounge was a joyous experience.

The electricity generated by the anticipation, the appearance and ultimately the voice and performance of the hugely charismatic Pedro Calvo was tremendous. The musicians in the band were strong enough to share the stage and shine instead of fading into the background. They were oh so tight, and oh so good, with lots of right-on solos and they were having a great time. They were a mix of local musicians, Jeff King on saxophone, Paco Luviano on bass, and Cuban Canadians Alexis Baro and Alexander Brown on trumpet, Mario Del Monte Jr. on drums and timbales and Yailen Duran on vocals and musicians on tour from Cuba with Pedro Calvo — conguero Reynaldo "Pichi" Valera, vocalists Mayito Valdes and Arnaldo Villafranca.

Pedrito Calvo
If, coming into the show, you didn’t know what a cultural icon the pirate-scarfed gold-earringed mustachioed and trademark hatted Pedro Calvo is in Cuba, you would have learned quickly. While Pedro Calvo, Hilario Duran and the rest of the musicians were finishing their dinner in Lula’s front room, a screen at the back of the stage showed Pedro Calvo on the road in Cuba. People lined the streets waving at his tour bus as it went by. Once at his destination, they jostled in closer as he made his way through the thick crowds. Strong, burly men cleared enough space for him to move and prevented him from being crushed by adoring fans. In front of the outdoor stage in Cuba an enthusiastic audience gathered in the thousands.

Listening to Pedro Calvo talk and sing and watching him on Lula’s stage explained that type of reception. He is a superb singer and he is also a born performer, he loves the stage and he loves his audience. He reaches out to them, he has fun with them, he entertains them and he moves them. He was, I think, somewhat frustrated at times by the language barrier, but many in the audience understood him and those who did not, had a great time anyway. Listening to the sexy rich sounds of “Guantánamo” (que rico, indeed) through the Beny Moré bolero-jazz “Hoy Como Ayer” to the what else but cooking “El Negro Esta Cocinando” was pure enjoyment.

Mayito Valdes also had his chance to take the starring role, heating the room with “La Tia” and demonstrating his polish with the classic bolero “Sabor a Mi”.

For many Cuban-Canadians the show fuelled the glowing heat of nostalgia as Pedro and Mayito sang hits from Los Van Van and Beny Moré. One audience member spoke for many when he talked about growing up in Cuba “listening to Los Van Van all the time, I loved Pedrito! And here he is. I am so happy and I’m amazed that he has lost nothing of the power or the quality of his voice. And he looks so young! It’s astounding!”

The spirit of another avid Los Van Van fan was surely in the room when Cuban singer-rapera Telmary joined Pedro on the Los Van Van hit “Marilú”. The expressive styles of the two strong charismatic presences complemented and contrasted as the play of words and rhythms, darted, bounced and flowed. A special chemistry connected the two. Telmary’s mother, who went to all the Los Van Van concerts she could, had been the inspiration for the penning of this much-loved song. The special feel of the evening continued when Benny Escalante, the father-in-law of drummer Mario Del Monte arrived on stage to sing the beautiful “Santiago de Cuba” with Pedrito. It was like a glorious musical family reunion. Still in the family vein, Yailen Duran (Hilario Duran’s daughter) sang the next one solo, “Pero de ti”.

Telmary and Pedrito Calvo

Pedrito Calvo
The fiery “Que le den Candela” was next, I believe. I was on the dance floor, pen and paper abandoned on a table. This was, after all, irresistible, danceable music of the highest order.
The musicians
Pedro Calvo – vocals | Hilario Duran – piano, Musical Director
Paco Luviano – bass | Mario Del Monte Jr. – drums, timbales | Reynaldo "Pichi" Valera – congas
Alex Brown – trumpet | Alexis Baro – trumpet | Jeff King – saxophone
Yailen Duran – vocals | Mayito Valdes – vocals | Arnaldo Villafranca – vocals

Telmary – vocals | Benny Escalante – vocals

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

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