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Son de Cuba 

Steppin' Out

Inspired by Buena Vista Social Club, Waynesville, NC's Son de Cuba is a group of six (sometimes seven or eight) who play son and son-derived music full of percolating Afro-Caribbean rhythms. There's band founder/leader Joe Rothenberg LaPaz playing bass, guitar and vocals. Then his wife Alina Marquez-Rothenberg, classically trained, playing mellifluous Cuban piano and their crowd-pleasing teenage son, Nick, playing percussion -- timbales and congas. Daughter Kelsey also dances and plays congas.

Besides the family, there's a revolving door of additional musicians, including Liliana Gonzalez on vocals, Burt Lopez on guiro (gourd) and Joey Franco on congas. With band members coming from Florida -- Palm Beach, St. Augustine, "Miami Beach, Cuba" (as Joe likes to call it) -- and Asheville, it's a wonder they can ever get together. But Rothenberg LaPaz assures me that for their upcoming Charlotte appearance, "we'll have the full band." If Son de Cuba's demo recording of "Camino" is any indication, the local crowd will be pleasantly surprised by their sophisticated yet fiery rhythms and arrangements.

The roots music of Cuba, as played on Buena Vista, is called son (pronounced "sone"). It's an Afro-Euro-Cuban blend first heard more than 100 years ago -- perhaps longer -- in eastern Cuba. It's Cuba's gift to world music, directly leading to salsa, rumba, the Buena Vista sound -- even Desi Arnaz' big band music from the I Love Lucy show. Rothenberg LaPaz says, "Son music is fun. People respond to it. It's connected to the hips."

Seven years ago, on a night with temperatures in the teens, some 600 people showed up for Son de Cuba's debut at Asheville's Orange Peel. Since then, they've created a buzz based on their solid, smooth grooves and sultry sounds. As Rothenberg LaPaz says, "This is not music you sit down to. We expect people to dance." Be prepared.

Son de Cuba is appearing at the Evening Muse, Friday, April 21. 10:30pm. Adv.: $8.00

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