Gerardo Contino y Los Habaneros
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Gerardo Contino y Los Habaneros

New York, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

New York, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
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El músico y abogado cubano Gerardo Contino vuelve a los escenarios de Nueva York con un nuevo y muy ambicioso proyecto en el que busca celebrar las tradiciones musicales de su tierra natal. Philip Klint habló con él y miembros de su banda, Los Habaneros. - See more at: http://www.ny1noticias.com/content/noticias/fiestas_patrias/208963/cuba--gerardo-contino-habla-sobre-la-historia-de-la-m%c3%basica-cubana#sthash.N2ZM6BHj.vnyu3G0c.dpuf - New York Channel 1


Six musicians, at least half a dozen dancers and the history of Cuban music in little less than an hour and a half.

Timba star Gerardo Contino is nothing if not ambitious.

The singer, known to his fans as "El Abogado de la Salsa," will bring his considerable energy and crack band Los Habaneros to B.B. King Blues Club on June 11 in a show that will highlight the different styles and genres of Cuban music, from the son to the bolero, the zarzuela to the danzón, and conclude with a healthy dose of salsa.

Making people dance is certainly a goal, but so is bridging the generational divide, something the singer admits is evident at some of his New York shows.

"I fear we are losing a lot in the sense that this type of music is only being danced by older people," says Contino, speaking from a studio in Midtown where he is rehearsing with his group.

"I feel the need and almost the duty to show younger people that this is very vibrant music and we can't only have it as a museum piece."

As a way of connecting to the audience, Contino decided that for this particular show he would be joined on stage by non-professional dancers, a mix of eight men and women, whom he hopes will help inspire those averse to shaking their hips.

"Every time I perform in New York I find that dancers do not connect very well with us, with musicians that are playing Cuban music, because they might not have the right knowledge about our music," says Contino.

"I want to show the general public that it is not necessary t o have grown up in Cuba or Puerto Rico to be able to dance to this music."

Born in Havana, Contino made his bones with the popular Cuban group NG La Banda. He moved to New York in 2009, where he formed Los Habaneros, a multiethnic band that includes Cuban pianist Axel Tosca Laugart, Venezuelan percussionist Luisito Quintero, and highly acclaimed Puerto Rican bassist John Benitez.

Contino's goal since he arrived in the city is to connect the past to the present and break from the stereotypes of Cuban culture and music that he believes are far removed from what is happening now in his homeland.

"Because the idea they have about Cuba is the old school music and I respect old school, but people have to understand that there is an evolution," says Contino.

"We respect the old songs and old styles, but also they have to allow the new generation to show our work." - Daily News


Former NG La Banda vocalist Gerardo Contino has been an active and highly visible proponent of the NYC Cuban music community since making Gotham his home in 2009. Between his Friday and Saturday residency at Guantanamera in Hell’s Kitchen, his monthly tenure at González y González and numerous concert and press appearances, Contino appears to be omnipresent.

His band, Los Habaneros, features an elite lineup of some of New York’s most highly regarded musicians in Latin music and beyond. Pianist Axel Tosca Laugart, percussionists Luisito and Roberto Quintero, and bassist John Benítez are but some of the prestigious company in which Contino chose for this recording. Despite the formable chops of the musicians at hand, “Somos Latinos” is first and foremost a dance album, and proves so in an almost explosive manner. While Timba is undoubtedly at the core of this recording, the music successfully incorporates elements of other Latin styles along with traces of American pop as well.

One of the aspects of this album that is interesting and refreshing is that all of the tracks are quite different from one another. While the obvious influence of Manolin, Bamboleo and NG are quite present in the music, the contrast between each song and the utilization of other genres give the CD an identity that is very much its own. “Siempre Latino”, the hard-hitting opening anthem shifts back and forth between Cumbia and Timba as it celebrates the diversity of the Latin American musical landscape.

“Hasta Alcanzarte”, written collaboratively between Contino and Axel Laugart, employs elements of neo-soul in its intro before kicking into Timba high gear. “La Chica Red Bull” and “Amor de adolecente” are full blown Timba epics with dense arrangements and interesting harmonic twists and turns that even make repeated sections seem different altogether. “Ni un ya no estás” is a ballad thick with rich synth textures and features the sultry vocals of Xiomara Laugart. “Venimos comercial” is a nod to the Nuyorican salsa sound with beefy horn lines, definitive coros and features a climactic timbal solo from Luisito Quintero.

The individual playing on the album is superb and the rhythm section displays a level of comfort with all the styles contained within the album with fluidic ease. From the Timba perspective, “Somos latinos” is a treasure trove of state of the art bass, piano and percussion work laid down by some the very best instrumentalists in the genre. The albums final track, “Se preguntan” is probably one of the best examples of the level of communication between Contino and the members of Los Habaneros. While at first glance it may be one of the more simple arrangements on the album, the razor-sharp rhythmic breaks and elastic interplay demonstrate a stylistic awareness of the highest order.

Overall “Somos Latinos” is not only a strong Timba album, but also the kind of Timba album that could only be created within the confines of New York City itself. It embodies the kind of transformation that music, musicians and even most individuals that inhabit NYC tend to undergo. There is an unavoidable cultural diffusion that in which everything influences each other through a type of osmosis that occurs no where else.

Songs: Siempre latino, Hasta alcanzarte, La Chica Red Bull, Amor de adolecente, Ni un ya no estás, Venimos comercial, Se preguntan. - Timba.com


Quixotic aims filled “Red Hot + Cuba” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Saturday night, the second of its two shows there. Andres Levín, a Venezuelan musician and producer who frequently visits Cuba, set out to bring Havana’s abundant live music to New York City, sampling some of the city’s diverse scenes — the idealistic Latin-American folk-rock called trova, the retro Cuban style rekindled by the Buena Vista Social Club and the revved-up, funked-up Cuban salsa called timba — with a group of 24 musicians.

Most of them were from Havana, but many had never played together. The trova songwriter Carlos Varela said the mix-and-match lineup at first seemed “completely crazy,” but the performers had bonded as “friends, colleagues, Cubans and musicians.”

The musicians brought ample hometown pride, in a set filled with songs about their love for Havana. Cuban-American relations were also in the air.

“In Cuba we are very flirtatious,” said the singer CuCu Diamantes, who founded the New York Latin group Yerba Buena with Mr. Levín in the 2000s. “We need the United States, Obama especially, to flirt more with Cuba and end the embargo.”

The concert was a benefit for the AIDS awareness and relief group the Red Hot Organization, which raises money through high-concept concerts and recordings. Saturday was World Aids Day.

The Red Hot ensemble couldn’t always match the tightness of the groups that perform night after night in Havana’s clubs. But it made up for the difference with its enthusiasm and variety. For timba it featured one of the style’s pioneers: Jose Luís Cortés, a k a El Tosco, a flutist with a blond Mohawk haircut who has been performing for 44 years and who founded NG La Banda, which spearheaded timba in the 1980s. Gerardo Contino, a former lead singer for NG La Banda, performed with him, and the horn section was topped by the high-note trumpet acrobatics of Alexander Abreu, who also stepped forward to sing.

Roberto Carlos Rodríguez Valdés, a k a Cucurucho, on piano, has worked widely with timba bands, but he also showed a jazzier side, backing the singers Osdalgia and David Torrens in torchy ballads and bringing some Gershwin to the Cuban danzón in an instrumental of his own. Ms. Diamantes, who is forging modern Latin pop hybrids, performed playful dance tunes with verses as rapid-fire as some hip-hop.

Cuban music doesn’t look solely toward the United States of course. The singer Kelvis Ochoa led some lilting Caribbean fusions, and Mr. Torrens brought Cuban vocal ardor to a bossa nova groove.

There was earnest introspection too: from Mr. Varela, whose gentle ballad “Habáname” (“Havana Me”) mingled sadness with affection for his city, and from Mr. Torrens, who called borders humanity’s “most selfish invention” before singing “Ni de Aquí ni de Allá” (“Neither From Here Nor There”).

Mr. Levín had programmed the two-and-a-half-hour set as a 24-hour tour of Havana, from wee-hours timba to daytime seriousness to another night at the clubs. By the finale, as the timba groove kicked and singers improvised praises of Havana and New York, borders had vanished. The singers conga-lined into the audience and led them onstage to keep dancing. - New York Times


Interview on Vicki Sola show "Que Viva La Musica." In Spanish and English. - Vicki Sola


Interview on Telemundo TV (in Spanish) - Telemundo


Interview on Telemundo TV (in Spanish) - Telemundo


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Gritty, witty and streetwise, the Havana-born Gerardo Contino, "El Abogado de la Salsa," is a Cuban singer/songwriter. This former lead singer of the Cuban mega-group NG La Banda is a party onstage: he loves to improvise, to pull the audience into call & response, and to provoke fans into hip-shaking abandon.
 
Since moving to New York City, Gerardo started his own band, "Gerardo Contino y Los Habaneros," with Axel Tosca LaugartLuisito Quintero, Oriente Lopez, and John Benitez. They released their debut album, Somos Latinos, in 2013 to very high critical acclaim. He has toured all over the world and in his new hometown, NYC, he has performed in Brooklyn Academy of Music, Kennedy Center, Sounds of Brazil (SOBs), BB King Blues Club, Le Poisson Rouge, the Bronx Museum, Live at the Gantries, Roulette, Gonzalez y Gonzalez, Taj, and many others. 


With his own project, as well as with NG La Banda, and his other bands, Son Yoruba, and Charanga Forever, Gerardo has toured in Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, and Canada. He has played in international festivals of salsa and jazz such as: Toulouse Festival, France; Latin American Festival of Milan, Italy; Festival Fiesta, Rome, Italy; Festival of MÄ‚ĹŸnich, Switzerland, Copenhagen Festival, Denmark; Salsa Festival of Verona, Italy; and, Afro-American Roots of Maracay, Venezuela.  

Gerardo has also shared the stage with such artists as Oscar de Leon, Roberto Roena, El Gran Combo, La India, Los Van Van, Xiomara Laugart, Carlos Varela, Alexander Abreu, Frank Fernandez, Osdalgia, Giovanni Hidalgo, Kelvis Ochoa, David Torrens, and Armando Gola. 



Gerardo is a recipient of the 2014 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council grant for Manhattan Community Arts Fund. Gerardo is endorsed by Gorilla Ears and is an active member of Musicians on Call. 

Gerardo received his education in Law at the University of Havana and his Master's in Law (LLM) at Cardozo School of Law in the prestigious Intellectual Property Program.  

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