PAN CON QUESO with DJs A MAN CALLED WARWICK, MIKE TULL and TONY LANZ at Lava (507 College), tonight (Thursday, June 13). Pwyc. 416-966-LAVA. www.playrecords.net
Pan con Queso main men Alfonz Lanza and Papo Gonzales make for an odd pair.
Lanza, the younger producer half of the team, bounces around his studio like a hyperactive kid, while Gonzales, the older Cuban percussionist and vocalist, drawls his answers at a lazy pace, suddenly breaking into song whenever Lanza cues up an unreleased track they've been working on.
"It began when this guy (Lanza) started doing some techno stuff in his house," explains Gonzales. "I dropped by, heard it and and thought, 'I could do something with this,' and started singing along."
Lanza has a slightly different recollection of that fortuitous first encounter.
"I'd never met this guy before," Lanza continues. "I was cranking out some jams in my upstairs bedroom at my place in Parkdale when I saw this guy out the window yelling at me. He looked kind of like he does now -- a bit sinister -- but I took the chance and let him in. It turned out he had congas with him. We jammed and that was it."
Those who've caught them performing at various house events over the past two years have seen them develop quickly from show to show. What started off as conventional Latin house has been gradually changing into something less predictable and more organic.
They just launched a Thursday-night residency at Lava that features 10 musicians onstage improvising around the grooves laid out in the recordings, but without any samplers involved. Lanza guides the band from behind the mixing board but he now has players doing the work previously done by machines.
"One of the ideas was to make recordings -- be a studio band and make records for DJs," explains Gonzales. "In the beginning, we were trying to substitute musicians for samples, using musicians where the samples would be. Little by little, the techno part became just the beat, with all the live things around it."
"The whole band is live," says Lanza, "but the processing gives it that electronic sensibility. We bring out a lot of effects -- delays and filters -- to juice up the band, like a live dub mix."
They're currently working on an album to follow up their promising singles for Play Records, but also have releases slated for Jazz Flight, as well as a couple of other local labels -- one planned by Movement's John Kong, and another named after Mike Sitchon and Steve Yanko's Leisure events.
If the work in progress is any indication, some jazz funk DJs will need to start buying modern records again.