Saturday, July 12, 2008

The E Family Featuring Sheila E.

When: Saturday, June 28, 2008 • Where: DakotaWho: Sheila E., drums; Pete Escovedo, timbales; Juan Escovedo, congas and bongos; Joe Rotondi Jr., keyboards; Michael Angel Alvarado, guitar; Umberto Ruiz (?), trombone; Cary Lozhan (?), trombone; Mario Gonzalez, trumpet and music director; Curtis Olson, bass.

In town for a family wedding,
the close-knit Escovedos play two nights at the Dakota during the jazz festival. For the first night's second set, the curtain is open and the house is full and festive. The stage is crowded with musicians and instruments, mostly percussion of all shapes and sizes. Old friend St. Paul Peterson—son of our own Jeanne Arland, brother to Billy and Patty, formerly of the funk group The Time and Prince’s group The Family—has flown in from the Bahamas to sing. Everyone is here to have a good time.

At 72, father Pete Escovedo is a very handsome man. He’s proud of his family and loves that he’s sharing the stage with Juan and Sheila. His wife, Juanita, comes up from time to time to tell a joke or join in the music-making. They play something he calls the “E Medley,” a song he wrote for Tito Puente, an arrangement by Wayne Wallace of “Esta Noche,” and songs off the new CD, also a family venture. (“Our family finally did a CD together,” Sheila E. tells us. “We figured out how many family members could play on it and found 32.”)

Click photo to see full-size

It’s all smooth and shiny, flawless Latin jazz-pop with an irresistible beat. Hands and feet blur. Father and brother and sister move back and forth between drums and timbales and congas, playfully pushing each other out of the way. The star wattage of the front line is boosted by the strong back line, which includes three horns. Big sound, high energy, yet intimate. “It’s like being in our living room,” Juanita says. Just another family gathering for 250 friends.

A solo by Sheila E. to finish. She plays a melody on her drums. Notes emerge amid the rat-a-tats and rumbles and cymbal crashes. It’s “Jesus Loves Me,” a total surprise. And not the final song after all: The band joins in and St. Paul returns for bits of hits including “The Glamorous Life,” “Screams of Passion,” and James Brown’s “Sex Machine” (“Get up, get on up”). The audience screams for Miss E. like she’s a rock star, which she is.

Photos by John Whiting.

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