CIMARRON as part of the Beaches Jazz Festival at Alex Christie Bandshell (Kew Gardens, Queen and Lee), Saturday (July 28), 3:30 pm. Free. 416-410-8809.
latin america is declared hot just about every five years, whereupon the sound of the conga is suddenly all over the record stores and mainstream radio. Luis Mario Ochoa, Havana-born composer and vocalist of local salsa dura big band Cimarron, doesn't mind pop culture's newfound love of Latin America.
"It's absolutely a good thing for Cuban music," he says, days before his set at the Beaches Jazz Festival Saturday (July 28).
"In a way, the Buena Vista Social Club saved that style of Cuban music, because with the younger generation it was in danger of being lost -- rap and hiphop are what the kids there are into now.
"The conga has been in North American music for a while -- Dizzy Gillespie was using it in the 40s. People like it. It makes the music happy."
Salsa dura is more traditional and percussion-driven than most contemporary salsa, which Ochoa describes as too romantic, very soft. "The cooking rhythm isn't there. What we do is the more hardcore side of it. It's not really pop music."
Their new CD, La Fiesta, is a tight, upbeat collection of Ochoa's compositions, fleshed out with horn arrangements by Puerto Rican greats Louis Garcia, Ernesto Sanchez, Tito Rivera and Torontonian Michael Marcuzzi.
"Live we open it up more and allow solos, it's a bit more jazz. I think the next album will be more like that. I want to play some guitar as well."
Son of a Cuban vocalist, Ochoa started studying music at the age of seven. He came to Canada 11 years ago.
"I was touring with a Cuban folkloric trio and we played here and liked it, so we decided to stay."
Since then, he's done two albums with Cimarron, a word meaning wild and untamed that was used to describe runaway slaves in colonial Cuba.
"I named the new CD La Fiesta because I wanted people to have a good time. It's happy music."