From left to right: Santiago Prieto, guitar; Jairo Alfonso, sax; Catalina Garcia, vocals; Abstin Caviedes, trombone, and Nicolas Junca, guitar.
Photo Luis Olazábal, The Rhythm Foundation
Getting people to have serious fun is no easy business. But at the North Beach Bandshell, Miami Beach, Sunday, the Colombian group Monsieur Periné got the near-capacity crowd to sing along, dance, follow the dips and raises on stage and just have a grand time while listening to a mix of funk, R&B, Gypsy jazz, old-timey swing and bits and pieces of half a dozen Latin American roots music styles.
Some of it can be chalked up to charm, and the engaging stage presence of vocalist Catalina Garcia. But Periné goes most naturally from “Bailar Contigo,” a piece with a neo-bossa nova/samba feel that would not be out of place in Bebel Gilberto’s repertoire, to “Tu M’as Promis,” a song set in a classic 1930s Gypsy swing and sung in French and Spanish. And just as they think nothing of adding some whistling to an instrumental arrangement, they also choose to have an Andean charango in “Tarde,” a song that otherwise sounds closer to Paul Desmond’s jazz standard “Take Five” than to traditional folk music.
These things don’t just happen. They require smarts and a certain vision.
Also, with Monsieur Periné— anchored by the core trio of García, vocals; Nicolás Junca, guitar; and Santiago Prieto, string instruments, and vocals; augmented Sunday by a five-piece ensemble — where you start might not necessarily tell you where you end up, and the results are both familiar and fresh.
The bolero “Me Vas a Hacer Falta,” sung by Prieto, took an unexpected turn into a jazz guitar solo and then became a mambo. “Mi Libertad” started with an Andean feel and ended up hinting at what sounded like a cumbia played by a papayera (small-town Colombian band).
More often than not, Monsieur Periné seems to be out to play with their listeners´ cultural compass, tweaking expectations and blurring the points of reference. But in part because they do their sleight of hand with a light touch and a sense of humor, their challenges have a soft edge — and yes, you can still dance to the music and sing along.
They once called their sound “suin a la colombiana”(Colombian-style swing) but it has continued to evolve and it seems to have spilled over early labels. Success (a Latin Grammy as Best New Artists in 2015; signing with a major label) has brought with it more of a pop feel to their music on record. But there’s still substance and a subversive core to their music – and live, they know how to also make it entertaining and fun.
It’s their call, but musical revolutions have been made with less.
Miami-based Venezuelan producer and deejay Mr. Pauer (aka Toto González) opened with a set in which he mixed electronics and his live, roots-based band. Keep an ear on him.