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Miami, Florida, United States | SELF

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF
Band Latin Funk


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If I had to pick a couple of terms to describe myself, they would be: funky Afro-Caribbean woman. Imagine my instant connection to the debut album of Palo!’s This is Afro-Cuban Funk. I first heard of them while listening to a Blog Talk Radio show that featured their music and immediately went to their website. Their homepage is simply amazing. Not only do you get to sample each of their songs, but you can also enjoy the phenomenal imagery that is the hallmark of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, specifically Cuba.

The first thing I noticed that sets Palo! apart from other Latin fusion bands is their inclusion of a saxophone, played by Ed Calle. Leslie Cartaya is on lead vocals and her voice is piercing in a comforting and familiar way. There’s a certain rasp to Cartaya’s pipes that works so well with the rustic sounds Palo! produces. It’s difficult to pick a favorite song off This is Afro-Cuban Funk as they have been playing on my Ipod all week. “Lengua Larga” is the first track on the album that is a wonderful introduction. We hear the traditional sounds of what we know are the staple of Caribbean music from the Spanish-speaking islands. You can’t miss the sudden howl of Calle’s saxophone at the end.

Things get real funky by track three of This Is Afro-Cuban Funk with “Tobaco y Ron Pa’ Mi Santa” and definitely by track eight, titled “Oro.” The only song that features other artists is “Pa’ Changó,” a celebratory anthem for the orisha Changó with Los Herederos. There are several songs to the santos/orishas, which is also found in many traditional Afro-Caribbean tunes, and “Pa’ Changó” takes its place among them all. I had the most fun listening to “Crescencio” because I imagined how it can drive everyone to the dance floor on a Friday night.

One of the challenges I’ve noticed with some self-identified funk and fusion bands is that many of the songs sound very similar. The tracks are so alike that the entire album can almost be one long song. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with Palo! Each track has its own unique style that is textured with exciting beats from the tropics. “Camina Con Los Codos” is a perfect example of the live vibe Palo! produces, with the added touch of some serious jazz!

Albums like This is Afro-Cuban Funk make you wish there were more than ten tracks. Yet, it does make us all want more and I’m sure Palo! has plenty to share. If there were ever a band that was looking for a tambourine player to join them, I’d be the first in line! - Bianca I Laureano,

Afro-Cuban funk is Cuban music for the new generation. And the leader of the sound is the Miami based band Palo, led by Steve Roitstein. Their new CD opens up with “Lengua Larga,” a perfect balance of funk and Afro-Cuban rhythms dedicated to the gossip queens of the world. In “Pa’ Chango” the band celebrates the god of fire using batá rhythms, chants, and electric funk beats that will make the warrior deity dance in the sky with divine thunder.
- Javier L. Orellana, The New York Post

What a great surprise ...a highly FUNKified, folklore-jazz number with inflections of timba, salsa and even a bit of R&B. Yoruba Funk Party music at its best. Whatever you want to call it, it's great stuff that will be sure to get your blood flowing. Superb vocalist and PALO! co-founder Leslie Cartaya pumps life and vitality into every arrangement. With co-founder and keyboardist Steve Roitstein at the helm, PALO! also has saxophonist Ed Calle, timbalero Raymer Olalde, conguero and singer Philbert Armenteros and others. This is funk, Yoruba style, with lots of attitude and ...Very Highly Recommended. - Editor's Pick,

Behind his shy demeanor, musical powerhouse Steve Roitstein -- a Jewish white guy originally from Connecticut who makes fun of his own unlikely attraction to Latin culture -- has always been deeply inspired by Cuban music, food and culture. So inspired was he, in fact, that seven years ago he started his own Afro-Cuban funk band and since then PALO! has never missed a beat.

Combine Steve's music with the culinary artistry of Chef Douglas Rodriguez and you've got one of the best damn things you can enjoy in South Beach without having to stand in line behind a velvet rope: great food, drinks and music all centered around Cuban culture.

For several months now, PALO! has been playing in the charming side courtyard at The Hotel Astor on Washington Avenue, also home to D. Rodriguez Cuba, an upscale Cuban restaurant offering contemporary twists on traditional dishes. The courtyard is small, but surrounded by jasmine vines and bamboo trees -- a lovely green oasis off busy, gritty Washington Avenue. The setting is decidedly intimate and a great spot for a date.

PALO! plays on a terrace facing comfy lounge chairs and tables where, once seated, you can feel the sensual tones of Leslie Cartaya's voice swirl up in the air while rhythmic drumming on bongos and snare beat close to your heart. Combine that with Roitsein's jazzy keyboard inflections and a sax's players funky riffs, and you've got a top quality South Beach live music gig in a most unexpected location. Live music isn't staple entertainment in South Beach; thank the orishas for this!

If I had to describe Cartaya's voice, it would be like sweet molasses with a dash of spice, flying through high and low notes like her beaming smile. And I can sit at the bar, literally an hour or more, staring mesmerized at the fierce percussion moves by Phil Armanteros on bongos and Raymer Oladle on drums, which would surely resound deep into the night through mountains and valleys, if we only had them.

Through all this, you will also find me tapping my feet to the clave, a specific rhythm that underlies all Cuban music, which is easy to hear but difficult to master. I may not always "get" the clave, but I do mouth the lyrics, which are in Spanish and quite catchy, describing typical Cuban daily life experiences. Roitstein always explains the lyrics to the audience, so English speakers don't miss out on the themes. - Maria de los Angeles,

Palo! is mostly live musicians with some use of loops. They call their music Afrocuban Funk, and the term fits pretty well, but it's not the Miami Sound Machine kind of fusion, rather more of a mix of deep funk and Afrocuban roots. I wasn't able to catch a live set but did snag their CD, played it a couple of times on the drive home and was really taken with it. The Afrocuban foundation is solid in the melodies, percussion and lyrics as are the funk bass patterns along with some elements of House here and there. There is some monster sax work by Ed Calle as well. This won't ever become Top 40 (and I mean that in a good way), but musicians and people who also appreciate deep funk should investigate this.
- Bill Tilford,


'This is Afro-Cuban Funk'
Released: Jun 30, 2009
2011 Rolling Pin Music



The idea to form a band first occurred to Steve Roitstein in 2002. After years of collaborating with great artists and musicians, he thought it would be fun to put together a project blending his favorite genres: Afro-Cuban music and Funk. He wasn’t sure how to pull it off, but he knew he wanted to mix in some funky loops, play keyboards, and feature great musicians and singers. After figuring out some technical stuff he began to think of personnel.

Each Member of PALO! is a virtuoso in their own right. Vocalist Leslie Cartaya is one of today's Latin music blossoms. Timbalero Raymer Olalde is one of the most incredible percussionists and energetic performers. A renowned specialist in Yoruba music, Philbert Armenteros’ talents as a vocalist, percussionist and composer lift PALO! to a higher level. And the privilege of featuring saxophonist and longtime friend of Steve, Ed Calle is always humbling. Steve can’t find enough words to properly express his thanks to his fellow “PALEROS”.