Mambo Tropical
Gig Seeker Pro

Mambo Tropical

San Jose, California, United States

San Jose, California, United States
Band Latin Jazz




"Mambo Master"

Salsa bands live or die by their percussion sections. If the timbales and the congas consistently lock into a propulsive groove with the bassist and pianist, the combo will keep the dancers happy, and the band will find regular work on the nightclub circuit. Yvette Y Su Orquestra Mambo Tropical, a formidable 11-piece ensemble, is a relatively recent addition to Northern California’s thriving Latin music scene. With a percussion section led by the Colombian-born Joaquin Pla, the band has developed an avid following. But when the time came to record the group’s first album, they didn’t take any chances, bringing in Latin music icon Pete Escovedo.

Leading the band is the soprano Yvette Watts, a singer who brings operatic training to her clarion salsa belting. She’s assembled a strong cast of players, including pianist Shane Cantanho, trumpeter John Halbleib and the versatile flutist Teresa Orozco-Petersen, who also performs with the Monterey Symphony, Bayshore Lyric Opera and the Brazilian jazz trio Agua na Boca. While the horn section is stocked with strong soloists, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to upstage Escovedo, a sharp-dressing old-school entertainer who is still playing with passion and fire at 70.

A mainstay of the Bay Area’s Latin music scene since the 1950s, Escovedo hails from a Mexican-American family with a mile-wide musical streak. While he first wanted to be a bebop alto saxophonist, by the end of high school he had taken over the percussion chair in a small Latin jazz combo led by pianist Ed Kelly, a fellow student at Oakland’s McClymonds High.

“I started listening to all the records by Machito, Tito Puente, and a lot of old Cuban records, just trying to absorb it all and learn,” Escovedo says. “At that time there wasn’t anybody around this area who was teaching or playing who could give any kind of instruction on Latin percussion instruments. My only schooling was to go and watch these guys play. So any time a band came into town, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader with Mongo Santamaria, George Shearing with Armando Peraza, or Patato Valdez, who was with Herbie Mann, that was my lesson.”

By the early 1960s Escovedo was a formidable player and had founded a popular Latin jazz combo with his younger brothers Phil and Coke. The group lasted until the late ‘60s, when guitarist Carlos Santana recruited Coke and Pete for his hugely popular band. They were featured on the Santana albums Moonflower, Oneness, and Inner Secrets.

Eventually Pete and Coke felt the need to branch out on their own again and in 1970 they founded Azteca, a cooperative 14-piece Latin rock band. While the band toured widely, Escovedo also found time to record prolifically as a sideman, appearing on sessions with jazz and pop stars such as Herbie Hancock, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Woody Herman, Billy Cobham, Anita Baker, Angela Bofill, Barry White and Boz Scaggs. By the 1980s, a new generation of Escovedos was moving to the fore, as his daughter, drummer Sheila E, gained fame as a protégé of Prince.

Escovedo also tried his hand several times at the nightclub business, which is what led to his exodus from the Bay Area. Forced to sell his house after the closure of his swanky Alameda nightspot Mr. E’s, Escovedo followed his children down to Southern California. Turns out that he’s also been a hit in Los Angeles, working regularly, performing on several soundtracks and even making his debut as a painter with a show at a gallery in North Hollywood. His one-man show shouldn’t come as a surprise. As anyone who’s ever heard him wield a drumstick knows, the man is a consummate artist.

Nov 24th, 2005 By Andrew Gilbert - Montery County Weekly

"Mambo Tropical Keeps Crowd Dancing"

Aug 11, 2005

Mambo Tropical, with Yvette Watts, a Santa-Cruz based salsa band, played their record release party at Moe’s Alley last Saturday night with Latin grooves that led to a night of dancing and fun for the mellow crowd….the Latin rhythms were infectious.

As a youngster, I used to sneak into Latin clubs in the Mission District of San Francisco, trying to catch a glimpse of authentic music being performed by musicians from other cultures. Artists such as Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Dizzie Gillespie and Santana have given us all a taste of the energy and feeling that Afro-Cuban music has to offer. I felt like a kid again when I saw Watts lead her band through this night of great salsa music.

Watts acted as front-woman and lead vocalist for the band. Her genuine stage presence was natural and refreshing and made the audience feel at ease. Her heartfelt vocal performance proved that she was a part of the band, and not just another pretty face.
The group responded to her inspiration, and it was fun to watch the interplay that occurred.

The horn section (comprised of John Halbleib on trumpet, Jamie Dubberly and Scott Knipplemeir on trombone) shined with tight arrangements and inspired solos. Mambo Tropical, in the tradition of true salsa, had no drummer, but multiple percussionists who performed as one unit. This provided an infectiously danceable sound that is impossible to duplicate on a drum set.

Joaquin Pla wowed the audience with his passionate timbale solos, but it was his unfaltering energy that drove the band. As he counted off every song, you could tell that he fulfilled the role of rhythmic pulse in the group and led the other percussionists.

Down at audience level, a bevy of observers stuck to the walls, tables, and chairs around the back and side of Moe’s Alley. But the real action was on the dance floor, where several couples displayed their salsa moves. The band performed several recognizable salsa standards, as well as many original tunes off of the new album. "Bamboleo" was one of their best. …….they are very entertaining and convey the spirit and energy of salsa music. Mambo Tropical is a great dance band and a genuine good time.

Chris Jones
- Santa Cruz County Sentinel

"Mambo Tropical"

Hoping to catch the rising wave of interest in traditional Latin music, MAMBO TROPICAL specializes in a jazzy brand of salsa and Afro-Cuban sounds. Led by vocalist Yvette Watts, this large ensemble definitely have the chops to bring down the house. I can imagine this California based group playing to a sweaty crowd tearing up the dance floor…."Bomboleo" hits all the right points, driving percussion locked on to a grooving bass line and expert vocal delivery,.. ."Contigo En La Distancia" proves that the band has the potential to slow things down to a sultry simmer…which makes me wish all the more that I could be there for a live show to experience MAMBO TROPICAL in their full glory. [David J. Patterson]
- Space Junkie's Magazine

"Mambo Tropical"

Feelin' Hot! Mambo soothes the soul with deep latin grooves. The vocal skills are exceptionally accompanied by the wonderful horn section. Enough to keep the feet tapping all night. Get your girl and chalk up the dance floor the solos provided will definitely get you lifted. "Contigo En La Distancia" is truly haunting ballad with lovely vocals by Yvette Watts. Mambo Tropical will warm the hearts and senses of the world

- Catsask Music & Entertainment

"Mr. Suave working on new CD with Mambo Tropical"

Orlando Castro, interviewing in Hermosillo, Mx sits down with Julio Gutierrez Galaviz, talking about the upcoming CD being released this summer with Mambo Tropical. - EXPRESO Newspaper

"Mambo Tropical"

Afro-Cuban beats and saucy Latin nuances have transcended cultural lines, emerging as one of the hottest genres in mainstream music. Resembling the Cuban sound of Buena Vista Social Club, Mambo Tropical has resurrected the traditional sounds of Latin and jazz and combined the historical melodies with current hot hitting beats. The group has already proven their talents with such catchy songs as Bamboleo and Contigo En La Distancia. Which serve as only a prelude to future hits sure to rock the Latin musical arena.

Yvette Watts, lead vocalist, has showcased her talents behind the backdrop of a soundstage of cultural fusion. Her strong vocals combined with the high paced beat of the group take listeners on a sultry cruise through Latin rhythms and African influence. This melting pot of melodies have found the balance and will soon touch many as their upbeat sound hits the street.

With many competing to join the prestigious elite progeny of such heavy hitters as the Buena Vista Social Club, Julio Inglesias, and Gloria Estefan, Mambo Tropical is well on their way to becoming a household name. Whether an avid follower of the Latin scene, or a casual listener of music interested in an eclectic collection of sounds, Mambo Tropical has created a dynamic flow of hip vocals, traditional sounds, and unique lyrics. It wouldn’t be long before ballads like Contigo En La Distancia rule the radio airwaves.

Visit —

Chelsea Harmon

- The Inside Connection


Yvette Y Su Orquestra Mambo Tropical Featuring Pete Escovedo

Lo Mejor Del Festival Tirado F.A.O.T. 2009



Orlando Castro - Lead Singer, Songwriter, Background Vocals, Guitar Player, Harmonica Player
Orlando was born and developed his artistic talents in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. He has been performing professionally since he was 17 years old. Orlando is a successful Singer, Songwriter, Guitar Player, Harmonica Player and performs Afro-Cuban Percussion as well. He has his own entertainment company where he produces radio, TV and video productions. Orlando also performs with the band Broken English and Orlando Y Sus Jugosos and has had many performances in Mexico and Latin America. Orlando shares his time and talent teaching the youth of Salinas, California where he is the Director of Rondalla Alisal. Rondalla Alisal was privileged to perform with Carlos Santana at a performance in San Francisco.
But some of Orlando's greatest successes has been in his writing. Orlando penned two songs for Luis Miguel's breakthrough album, "ARIES" (WEA 1993), which won the 1994 Grammy Award for best "Latin Pop Album." Additionally, Tower of Power played on "Que Nivel De Mujer", yet another one of Orlando's songs on the "Aries" album. That same year, Orlando once again struck gold when he won the coveted BMI's 1994 Song Of The Year award for the song, "Suave", sung by Luis Miguel. Moreover, Orlando's hit song, "Suave", shot to the top nine(9) Billboard Hot Latin Tracks for all of 1994. In 1997, Orlando's song, "Si Te Vas", was included in "Billboard Hot Latin Tracks: Best of Pop 1997 : Various Artists". Currently, both of Orlando's songs, "Suave" and "Si Te Vas", have re-emerged in Luis Miguel's remix album "No Culpes a La Noche - The Club Remixes" (Warner Music 2009) and have recently climbed to #4 on the Mexican and USA Latin charts. In Argentina during the same interval, the album peaked at #1.
Orlando, in his career as a successful singer and songwriter has worked with many international artists and has participated and written songs for:








Orlando now lends his accomplished lyrical writing talents to Mambo Tropical's upcoming album. Orlando Castro is a long-standing voting member of the Recording Academy-better known as the Grammy's, as well as the Latin Grammy's. Orlando is also a member of BMI.

Ric "Mightybone" Feliciano - Lead Singer, Songwriter, Trombonist, Background Vocals, Keyboardist
Ric, who is a Puerto Rican from New York City (Nuyorican) is a Singer, Songwriter, Keyboardist & Trombonist. Working for 30 years in music business, Ric has performed with Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Foreigner, Pete Escovedo, John Lee Hooker, Jr., Johnny Polanco, Latin Rhythm Boys, Phil Driscoll, Orquesta La Verdad, Broken English, Masada, Orquesta Salson, Saboricua, Anthony Blea, and many others. Ric was an integral part the Grammy nominated album, Phil Driscoll’s “Warriors” (Word Records 1994) in that he was responsible for that album's horn arrangements. The Grammy genie struck again when Ric played in a horn section called "Hot Sauce" for the Grammy nominated album, John Lee Hooker, Jr.’s, “Blues With A Vengeance” (Kent Records 2004) Ric has also performed with Latin Rhythm Boys upcoming album "The Year Of The Cuatro" (2010) with Johnny Polanco and Artie Webb and is performing with the group in an upcoming feature film "An American in Puerto Rico". Ric now lends his astounding musical writing talents as well as his gift with arrangements to Mambo Tropical's upcoming album. Ric's influences are Willie Colon, Jimmy Bosch, Hector Lavoe, and Chino Nunez with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Marc Anthony, and Horn Bands from the 60's and 70's R&B era.

Ric has been a voting member of the Recording Academy-better known as the Grammy's, as well as the Latin Grammy's since 1999. Ric is also a member of BMI.

Yvette Watts - Lead Singer, Background Vocals
Yvette has always been passionate about music. Born into a musical family, Yvette starting singing professionally at age 15 , with her Father's Latin Trio. After impressing several music industry veterans, Yvette was invited to perform on the TV show Buscando Estrellas and won first prize at the Festival de la Cancion Latino Americana. She has toured throughout Europe with the Cuesta College Vocal Jazz ensemble. She has also studied many genres of music including, opera, jazz, country, blues, and salsa. Yvette has also trained with tenor great Mario Lanza's voice instructor. After settling in the Bay Area, Yvette teamed up with classically-trained musician Teresa Orozco and veteran performer Jim Polizzi to form the foundation which would later evolve into the 12-piece e