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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


B.B. King, Buddy Guy Perform at Constitution Hall

Photos by Alfredo Flores NBC 4 Washington's Around Town

B.B. King loves his Lucille Gibson guitar. "It seems that it loves to be petted and played with. There's also a certain way you hold it, the certain noises it makes, the way it excites me ... and Lucille don't want to play anything but the blues ... Lucille is real, when I play her it's almost like hearing words, and of course, naturally I hear cries." — B.B. King, liner notes from the album, Lucille, 1968. B.B. King, 83, has played 15,000 shows in the last 50 years, and is known for his hits“Thrill Is Gone” and “Every Day I Have the Blues." Buddy Guy is known for his showmanship: for example, he plays his guitar with drumsticks, or strolls into the audience while jamming and trailing a long guitar cord.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Author: Alfredo Flores
Author: Flores
Issue: 2009/02/19
Issue Volume: 29


B.B. King

Friday, Feb. 20, at DAR Constitution Hall

It’s fitting that one of the most recognizable musical instruments in the world is named for the subject of a fight so big it burned down a nightclub.

One night in the mid-1950s, the relatively young “Beale Street Blues Boy” (later known as B.B. King) was doing a show at the Arkansas club Twist when two men began trading blows over a woman named Lucille, upsetting a kerosene stove in the process. After evacuating the inferno, King went back in to retrieve his $30 acoustic guitar. King and a better guitar, a version of Lucille he had custom-made, have played 15,000 shows in the last 50 years, during which time King has written genre-crossing hits like “Thrill Is Gone” and “Every Day I Have the Blues,” and developed a knack for bringing home hardware—he just won his 15th Grammy for his most recent studio album, One Kind Favor. In the liner notes for his 1968 album Lucille, King states his guidance has come from the guitar herself: “Lucille don’t want to play anything but the blues. Lucille is real, when I play her it’s almost like hearing words, and of course, naturally I hear cries.” B.B. KING PERFORMS AT 8 P.m, WITH BUDDY GUY AT DAR CONSTITUTION HALL, 1776 D ST. NW. $65–$70. (202) 628-1776.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


A Rare Jewel Sparkles: Cucu Diamantes

Written by Washington Post Express contributor Alfredo Flores

CUCU DIAMANTES sure knows how to make a guy feel at home. At the Latino Inaugural Gala, she switched the chorus from "Still in Love" to "Hoy Obama. Bienvenidos a Washington" ("Obama. Welcome to Washington today"), much to the delight of those in attendance. "That performance was like my birthday — so much fun!" said the very excitable Diamantes. "He's all about change, so why not change the lyrics for that concert?" The Cuban-born Diamantes has reason to be excited. Not only did she thrill the crowd at Union Station last month, but after nearly a decade as the frontwoman for Afro-Cuban funk, salsa, hip-hop and Nuyorican boogaloo fusion band Yerba Buena, she's releasing her debut solo album, "Cuculand," later this month. "This album represents my past, present and future," said Diamantes, who will start recording again with Yerba Buena in a few months. "It was a visceral album, and it was the right time to do it." The album's first single, "Algien" (featuring Yotuel of Cuban hip-hop pioneers Orishas), is a delight for the eardrum. A stirring big horn section, clap-along beat and backup vocalists greet listeners with "Ay, mama, Cucu!," and she replies with her trademark high nasal pitch and impressive spitfire rhymes. "It's a fun love song," she said in Spanish. "My friends always tell me that 'Ay, I can never find a perfect man.' I say that's impossible. You have to find a good man and accept his imperfections. Some of us are a diamond in the rough. Look at me; I'm a woman under construction." The album is dedicated to women everywhere, and speaks about topics Diamantes has encountered from being mistreated ("Sentimiento"), being lied to ("Mentiras"), to undying love ("Still"). One of her more soulful and personal tracks is "Mas Fuerte," about moving on after a breakup in which she sings, "I'm stronger than you/I am more worthy than you/And I have a full life where you don't appear." "This album is more Cucu," she said. "It's more about my feelings, my mental state. It's why I called it 'Cuculand.'" At the beginning of her music career, Diamante hung onto her childhood nickname Cucu and matched it with the stage name Diamantes (diamonds) because "it was shiny; it sparkled." This from a woman who, with Yerba Buena, dances around with a guy in a burro costume onstage. "We're all a little bit 'cucu' in our minds, a little bit crazy, sad, happy," she said. "With my shows, you can expect anything to happen, although it might be a little cold to bring a burro out of its stable." » Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; with Bio Ritmo, Fri., Feb. 13, $15-$18; 202-667-4490. (U St.-Cardozo). Written by Express contributor Alfredo Flores. Photo courtesy Fun Machine. Tagged in Arts & Events , Metro , Music , The District , U Street-Cardozo , Weekend Pass

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Latin Rock Explosion:


Written by Washington Post Express contributor Alfredo Flores

IT TOOK AN infuriating incident with United States customs officials for Molotov's sole American band member to spark the concept for the group's most popular song, "Frijolero." During a visit to the U.S., the Michigan-born, New Orleans-raised Randy Ebright had his half-Mexican daughter hassled by immigration officers in Miami. "It was, like, it was soooo out of the ordinary that an American guy would be with a Mexican woman," says Ebright, drummer for Molotov. The band is one of Mexico's most beloved, praised for its rapid-fire rap, big volume funk, metal and high-energy performances, as well as its biting tongue-in-cheek explicit bilingual lyrics targeting corruption and social injustice on both sides of the border. "I just couldn't believe they would treat my daughter that way because she wasn't full American." Ebright demoed "Frijolero" ("Beaner," an ethnic slur for a Mexican) for Paco Ayala at his Mexico City home, with Ayala deciding to emulate Ebright's accent, mocking his Spanish in the first verse, singing about foreign policies that the U.S. has with Mexico and the racism that happens on the border. "It was like a gringo singing in Spanish," says Ebright, laughing, his Louisiana drawl barely noticeable after 15 years in Mexico. The second verse of the Grammy-winning song has Ebright playing the role of a border patrol agent, telling Ayala's character not to call him a "gringo" and to stay "on his side of the river," the two battling back and forth lyrically in Spanish and English. The group has been compared to Rage Against the Machine for its socially conscious lyrics, but Molotov prefers to take its cue from the politically charged Mexico City urban rock bands that were forced into underground status in the 1970s and 1980s. Molotov's catchy, heavy baselines, guitar riffs and chant-like choruses fuel its 1997 hits "Gimme tha Power" and "Voto Latino" (Latin Vote).Ebright admits that he didn't always like his adoptive home country, particularly at first when his father, then a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, moved the family to Mexico City when Ebright was 15. He grew up in a middle-class family in the States, but in Mexico, Ebright not only did not know the language, but felt out of place at the American School Foundation private high school and its very wealthy students. Ebright found his calling in band class, and eventually linked up with "a friend of a friend of a friend" — original Molotov bass player Jay de la Cueva. The two bonded, Ebright earning the nickname "El Crazy Gringo" for his on- and offstage antics, and he began touring with the band. The band, which also features singer-guitarist Tito Fuentes and bassist Mickey "Huidos" Huidobro, became an instant hit with Ebright in tow, thrilling fans with its crazed abandon. "I wasn't too fond of the country until I was able to experience it outside of high school," he says. "Getting out, visiting other parts of the country. For some reason, the band became so big that it's almost like my band became part of the culture." » State Theatre, 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church; Sat. Feb. 7, 9 p.m., $30 in advance, $35 at the door; 703-237-0300. (East Falls Church). Photo courtesy Molotov. Tagged in Arlington County , Arts & Events , East Falls Church , Metro , Music , The District , Virginia , Weekend Pass

Monday, February 02, 2009

D.C.-based reggae group See-I creates a sound all their own
written by
Alfredo Flores
On Tap magazine
While many of the music students at the prestigious Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina would have been thrilled by the frequent visits from alumnus and be-bop jazz trumpet pioneer Dizzy Gillespie, not so much for brothers Zeebo and Rootz Steele. The most vivid memory for the front men of D.C.-based reggae band See-I was how their Virgin Islander friends at the school opened their minds to a new world of music. “We both grew up in the country back woods of North Carolina,” said Zee. “But it was the students from the Virgin Islands that would come to our room with stacks of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh records, all of the great reggae artists of the 1970s, and we’d have all-night DJ jam sessions. After I heard [Marley’s] ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ that was it. I was hooked.” Zee and Rootz Steele have collaborated with world-renowned D.C.-based DJ duo Thievery Corporation since the late 1980s, when Thievery’s Eric Hilton saw See-I perform at a local D.C. reggae club. Since Hilton opened Eighteenth Street Lounge in Dupont Circle, the brothers have been drawing head-bopping crowds to its Gold Room for their weekly late night reggae fests. It was in the lounge’s famed Green Room—the original smallish studio for ESL Music that now serves as the lounge’s backstage—that See-I and Thievery recorded “.38.45 (A Thievery Number)” in 1996. It was one of Thievery Corporation’s first hits, but Zee didn’t know it at the time. “Eric is very modest,” said Zee. “He didn’t tell me that the song was blowing up. He just said it’s nice. The way he put it, I figured a couple of his buddies DJ’ed it. When we started touring with Thievery we knew that it was far more than just a couple of people who liked it.” Rootz and Zee continue to tour with Thievery all over the world, playing to crowds reaching tens of thousands. While most of the local reggae bands were Jamaican-bred, Hilton discovered that See-I had a different sound, blending in all types of 1970s funky beats. “They’re great people. They just really love music,” said Hilton. “They were completely immersed in reggae for many years, but their roots are in American classic soul music like Sly & the Family Stone. I think they’re starting to incorporate a lot of those roots into their reggae performances. And when you go see them at the lounge, you go see a reggae soul funk band, which I think is a lot more interesting than seeing a straight up reggae band. They’re unique musically and I think that’s why people gravitate to them so much.” See-I’s band members reflect this diversity in music styles. In addition to the Steele brothers, the group features rhythm guitarist Rob Myers (also with local funk foursome Fort Knox Five), sax player Frank Mitchell, Zee’s son Salem on keyboards and drummer Names Thompson (also with Brazilian bossa nova outfit Soul Brazil). Additional members include Javier Miranda on congas, Brad Clements on trumpet, bassist Steve Sachse, Bobby Thompson on rhythm guitar and vocalist Candice Mills. “Our influences are so spread out, totally international,” says Rootz, who like his brother sports large dreadlocks. ”It’s not like we’re a set format or genre, even if we sort of look like we’re reggae, which we are, but everybody in this group has an influence and everyone is appreciated.” See-I’s reggae is tinged with various other genres, ranging from very mellow down tempo (“Mean Joe Green”), to faster paced dub beat with hints of electronica (“The King”), to heavy percussion-based (“Bulletproof”). But their most beloved track, and the one they usually close out shows with, is “Homegrown”—the band’s ode to their adoptive hometown D.C., its soulful chorus taking listeners on a journey through the city’s streets. “18 Street across Florida too / ‘gwan U Street to Georgia Avenue/Northeast, Southwest, Southeast crew/D.C., M Street, that’s how we do.” “It’s reminiscent of where we’re at, who we are,” said Zee. “In D.C., we don’t have that big of a music scene. We do, it’s just more of an underground scene. That song gets people hyped up, because it’s not a political song, it’s a chant of the street, the vibe of the street. We have always tried to have our own D.C. slice of the pie, getting our own [music] fingerprint. It’s kind of what we feel is D.C. style. It’s homegrown.” For more information on See-I, visit


Thievery Corporation

Performs at the 9:30 Club

Photos by Alfredo Flores NBC 4 Washington's Around Town
Thievery Corporation recently performed five straight sell out shows at the 9:30 Club, the start of their U.S. Tour. Their music style mixes elements of dub, acid jazz, Indian classical, and Brazilian bossa nova with with a lounge aesthetic.