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A little bit of Spanish Harlem comes to Flushing Town Hall

Spanglish Fly brings their brand of Latin boogaloo to Flushing Town Hall.
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Back in the 1960s, a sound known as the Latin Boogaloo became prominent on the music scene. Following in the footsteps of the bossa nova and incorporating touches of R&B, mambo and a Cuban genre called son montuno, this modern style of samba originated in New York City, where it was primarily popular among Cuban and Puerto Rican teenagers. Songs were performed in both English and Spanish.

As the music became popular, so did the Boogaloo dance, which was introduced to the mainstream American audience via the television program “American Bandstand.”

Now, a group known as Spanglish Fly, which boasts several members from Queens, is reviving the music as well as the dancing it inspires. Friday night, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month at Flushing Town Hall, the band will put on a show intended to both bring back the sounds of 1960s Spanish Harlem and get the audience up on its feet. Following a dance workshop at 7 p.m., which will prepare everyone for an evening of moving to the beat, Spanglish Fly will hit the stage at 8 p.m.

“People will discover a genre that they’ve never heard before or one that they thought they would never hear again,” said trumpeter Jonathan Goldman. Goldman was originally a DJ known as Jonny Semi-Colon. “Wanting to bring back the sound, I recruited musicians from all over the city.”

It might be more accurate to say that he recruited musicians from all around the world. Building from its New York roots, Spanglish Fly’s lineup has included performers from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela and Japan. In addition to Goldman, the band includes lead singer Mariella Gonzalez; Rafael Gomez on bass; Ronnie Roc, Dylan Blanchard and Edwin Estremera on percussion; Matt Thomas on tenor saxophone; Jonathan Flothow on baritone saxophone; John Speck on trombone; Victor Rendon on piano and Arei Sekiguchi on the instrument that is one of Latin music’s mainstays, timbales.

“Timbales are a percussion instrument associated with artist Tito Puente,” said Goldman. “The timbales player leads the percussion section.”

Spanglish Fly has been around since 2009 and has played at such high-profile spots around New York as the Apollo Theater, Blue Note, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill and SOB’s. The band’s touring schedule has taken it to venues from the Latin American Fest in Charlotte, N.C. to the Kennedy Center. They are also prominently featured in the documentary “We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo.” That film’s title is a nod to Joe Cuba’s 1967 “I Like It Like That,” a big dancefloor hit and one of the staples of the Latin Boogaloo genre.

Spanglish Fly’s music is tailored for maximum dancefloor impact as well. Its 2015 CD “New York Boogaloo” garnered rave reviews from the Village Voice, World Music Report and the All About Jazz website, which noted that the band “not only encompasses the complicated sound of boogaloo, they are also committed to maintaining the high quality of musicianship required for such an undertaking.”

Flushing Town Hall’s programming for Hispanic Heritage Month continues after Friday’s show. On Sept. 30 at 8 p.m., Orlando Marin, a contemporary of such greats as Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez, will perform. As with Spanglish Fly’s show, a dance workshop will help audience members keep up with this master of New York’s golden era of mambo.

Posted 12:00 am, September 22, 2016
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Reader feedback

michelle from queens says:
I don't see the point of Spanish Harlem. Most populated ethnic group in this country is the Spanish (mexican, puerto, Dominicans, and etc)
Sept. 22, 2016, 5:51 pm

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