October 2005

Ralph Irizarry and Son Café
October 6, 2005Lula LoungeToronto
Raphael and Lula
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
Opening up his show, Ralph Irizarry told the audience that he feels a special bond with this club. The feeling is reciprocal. Ralph Irizarry played at Lula Lounge’s opening night three years ago and lucky for Toronto, this cat keeps coming back.

When Ralph was a little boy in Spanish Harlem, his father received a timbal as payment for a debt and Ralph’s lifelong passion was born. After moving to Brooklyn and then Queens, the family moved back to Puerto Rico. There, Ralph joined the band La Terrifica and sat in with El Gran Combo and Sonora Poncena. After three years in Puerto Rico, he moved back to New York to pursue his career. He was “discovered” by Ray Barretto, was co-founder of the group Seis Del Solar with Ruben Blades and recorded with Isaac Delgado in Cuba. “El reye des timbaleros” (the king of timbal players) himself, Tito Puente, praised his playing. Later, Ralph formed his own bands, Son Criollo and Timbaleye, the Latin jazz band he brought to Toronto's Lula Lounge last year.

This year he put together an eight piece salsa band, Son Café. They play a mix of salsa pura and son cubano with a rhythm you just can’t lose. Last night he brought them to Lula Lounge for the first time. Among his first words to the audience were, “Hope we dance tonight because it’s all about dancing.” Dance we did.
Ralph Irizarry

This band leans more to ensemble work with rich layering and interplay of rhythms, voices and instruments than to rounds of extended solos. Jorge Maldonado sang the first two pieces alone with the band before Elsa Ozuna came on and sang a heartfelt homage to Celia Cruz, “El Vacio” (roughly translated, the void), with lyrics along the lines of your “melodies will live on, cherished queen, you will live forever”. “Aprovecha pollo” featured the two singers interweaving their voices in a duo.

Appropriately enough, pianist Edwin Sanchez shone in “A los pianistas”. Trumpeters Richie Viruet and Tomer Levy, conguero Robert Rosario and bassist Ray Martinez all turned in solid performances. Toronto’s own Luisito Orbegeso was on stage most of the night playing claves, and also stepped behind the congas at one point for a little skin burning.

The pieces Ralph Irizarry and Son Café played were all from their recently released CD, Bailando con…¡Azucar!, dedicated to dancers. I quote from the liner notes, “For a musician who plays dance music, watching a dance floor get flooded with couples has to be the utmost indication of acceptance and ultimate reward, right up there with the applause of approval at the end of a performance… I submit to you, the dancer, Son Café’s first CD”.

If you like to dance, whether with your feet or in your head, I recommend you pick up a copy of Bailando con…¡Azucar!. And make sure you experience Ralph Irizarry and Son Café live if you get the chance.

Elsa Ozuna
We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Joyce Corbett
• •
Roger Humbert

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2005