Walnut Creek: Latin musicians turn up the heat

Tony Cooper, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle

Adrian Flores
Gary Flores and Salsa Caliente play at clubs and parties all over the Bay Area, but bandleader Flores is two weeks away from experiencing a different kind of gig. He just might be tempted to walk to the venue.

"We don't get much Latin music at all (out here),'' said Flores, who lives in Walnut Creek. "Most people have to go to the city to hear this kind of music, so this is kind of a big deal and a neat thing for the audience. It's going to be crazy for us. It's going to be fun.''

Flores is talking about "The Latin Show," which comes to the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts for a one-night stand Aug. 13.

On that night, the center will be transformed into a universe of Latin music and dance, everything from mariachi to Afro-Cuban to Brazilian music, from cha-cha to tango to rumba.

More than 40 Bay Area and international Latin dancers and musicians will be on hand, and Flores won't be the only local in the house. Tango dancers Marcelo Solis and Romina Hahn live in Lafayette; salsa specialists Beto and Lani Da Silva are Dublin residents. Inspiration Tango, one of the three bands in the show, is led by Robert Fields of Walnut Creek.

"Rarely have I seen anything like this put together,'' said Lani Da Silva. "It's going to be an interesting, exciting show ... all these different types of dancing.''

The show is being produced by Adrian Flores (no relation to Gary Flores), a producer, dancer and teacher who is widely known in the Latin scene. He has lived in Walnut Creek for almost 30 years and is a Richmond native.

Adrian Flores, who has been planning the show since October wants to bring something different to Walnut Creek and the surrounding area, instead of the symphony, ballet, opera and classical fare.

"I want people to experience romance, hot steamy moves and the grandeur of Latin dance and what Latin music is,'' Adrian Flores said. "(All) dance has a lot of flavor. This is going to get the Latin flavor.

"There's a mystique about it. A lot of people see it on TV and they enjoy it for the moment, then go back (to their regular thing). This is an opportunity to see what it's all about.

"A lot of people don't know the music, only hearing bits and pieces of it. When they see this show, they'll get a broader understanding of what Latin art is all about.''

Even to those more learned about a particular form of Latin dance or music, there should be some surprises that night. The Da Silvas are working on moves that feature a Brazilian twist, including samba. "To the salsa crowd, this is going to be something totally new,'' said Lani Da Silva.

Solis and Hahn plan to throw the audience a curve ball as well. They are putting together a tango that is anything but typical.

"We're doing something new and interesting, that will give people a (different) point of view of what tango is,'' said Solis, who is from Argentina, as is Hahn. "We'll show the happy side of tango. Most people expect a sad tango.''

Expect just about anything from Gary Flores and Salsa Caliente, which has been in business for 28 years. The group has members who have performed with Santana, Janis Joplin, Maynard Ferguson, and is influenced by New York bandleader Joe Cuba and others. Salsa Caliente will throw down boleros, mambos, salsas, merengues, and whatever else they feel like doing.

"We play a little bit of everything,'' Gary Flores said.

However, Flores' group will leave the mariachi to Mariachi Los Cachorros, a 10-year-old group based in San Francisco and headed by Aurelio Aceves.

The band plays all over Northern California and Oregon, and is willing to venture through the Caldecott Tunnel. Los Cachorros might be familiar to some in the audience, because they play at Casa Del Sol restaurant in Concord every Sunday.

"We're excited (about "The Latin Show") and are ready to play,'' Aceves said. "We play anywhere people want mariachi, on any occasion.''

Brazilian Katia Vaz and Salsa de Carnaval; international dancers Silke Heleine and Alex Harnicholas; two Argentine tango duos, Yanina Messina and Gennaro Perez Marino, and Maria and Carlos Rivarola; the Mambo Romero Dance Company and salsa dancers Renie Joie Couttenye and Rob are also in the lineup.

Adrian Flores said some songs sung in Spanish will be translated into English, so non-Spanish speakers will "get the feeling of the Latin mood."

"A lot of people listen to Spanish songs, and they know it touches their soul and heart, but they don't know the words,'' Flores said. "The poetry that's so powerful ... they're going to get some of that. There will be some translation, but too much interrupts the entertainment.''

One interesting aspect of the show is this array performers won't have a chance to rehearse together until the day of the event -- scheduling and logistics have allowed Adrian Flores to practice only with individual groups.

However, those involved say it will make the show better, not harried or ragged.

"It's going to be spontaneous,'' Flores said.

Said Lani Da Silva, "Because we're working with pros, it should go smoothly. You wouldn't have asked an amateur (to do this). ... It'll add more excitement to us as dancers. I'm more concerned with what the audience is going to like.''

If Adrian Flores guesses correctly -- and his level of savvy suggests he won't be wrong -- the crowd will be asking for an encore or two.

"It's going to be an intense evening,'' Flores said. "What's consistent in the music is the drama and romance. It makes your muscles move, your hips move, your insides move. Everything in Latin music is gut-wrenching. When you get those things together (with dance), you have a very powerful display of emotion existing in the music and the people.''

And after all that, Gary Flores can take comfort in having a short trip home when it's over.

Noche caliente
"The Latin Show" is Aug. 13 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts' Hoffman Theatre, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. The show is from 7:30 to 9 p.m, and the audience will be able to dance on stage to the bands' music from 9 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $28 to $32. For more information, call (925) 943- 7469 or visit http://www.dlrca.org/ or http://www.adrianflorespresents.com/.

E-mail Tony Cooper at tcooper@sfchronicle.com.