With the exception of just a handful of people, the dancing throughout most of Sierra Maestra’s performance set was limited to the area behind the seating, far from the stage where the Cuban band was firing up their percolating rhythms. It wasn’t until the encore that the band seemed to notice and point-blank asked the audience to get out of their seats and dance to the music.
Well, it turned out that that was all it took. Within seconds it seemed as though the area in front of the Music Haven stage was filled with all kinds of dancers. Some knew what they were doing in the Latin realm of organized dancing, but most didn’t. And that’s OK because they just moved to the infectious rhythms and beats of this world-class Cuban ensemble.
As the artistic director, Mona Golub has wisely mixed up the long-running Sunday evening concert series by bringing an array of internationally acclaimed musicians from the four corners of the globe to Schenectady’s beautiful Central Park. In fact, the Music Haven concert series motto is, “Travelling the world, one concert at a time.”
This time out, the Grammy-nominated, Havana-based band Sierra Maestra represented the Caribbean music scene. The nine-piece band was driven by a quartet of percussionists, but the multi-talented musicians onstage all also doubled as vocalists at one time or an other during the concert. With more than a dozen albums to their credit, the veteran musicians knew exactly what they were doing as they conjured up a simultaneously modern, yet traditional Cuban sound for the receptive audience.
Nippertown’s premiere flamenco guitarist Maria Zemantauski opened the show with her fiery brand of guitar pyrotechnics.
Review and Sierra Maestra photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Marie Zemantauski photograph by Stanley Johnson