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Salvador Santana and the SSB at the Hotel Café

Salvador Santana totally owned the Hotel Café listening Room Thursday night. He had the audience right where he wanted them – happy, positive, mesmerized and even at times, quiet, so intense was his music and so intent was everyone in the near full house on listening to it. Salvador has arrived, he is fully formed and he and his SSB band are transforming hip hop into something, bigger, wider, and much, much broader. He demonstrated Thursday night that he can rhyme with the best of them while he communicates with everyone.

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Santana performed six songs; two new songs plus four from the albums Rise Up and Keyboard City. A pianist and keyboard artist – no, he did not follow in his father’s guitar footsteps – he has deftly combined salsa and hip hop into songs that go beyond either genre and take on a positive, uplifting life of their own. This who Salvador is: he always looks for the best in people, whether it be in his SSB band, who is the best at what they do, or the progressive charities he is personally involved in; the Daraja Academy for girls in rural Kenya , the Do A Little Foundation supporting health and education for women, and Amnesty International, National Center for Farm Worker Health, and Clinc Ole.

He opened the show with “Sounds Good” a strong keyboard-infused rap not previously published. It woke everyone up, got the juices flowing and let the room know that a talent was here. Now that everyone was paying close attention, he soften the mood slightly and added some island beat with “Don’t Even Care” . That got everyone bouncing in their seats and singing along, as Salvador’s keyboard woven expertly through the addictive percussion and his voice told a great story.

He shifted to Spanish in another unreleased song, “Lo Que Digas Tu” mixing salsa, a bit of blues and rap deftly, keeping the folks in their seats bouncing and the growing crowd of people standing with eyes and ears firmly fixed on the stage.

The band then shifted into high gear with “Under the Sun” from his first album, “Rise Up” , the title track of his new album, and “Into the Light” also from the Rise Up album. This is Salvador Santana in his element, making inspiring fusion music and driving it home with perfectly timed and modulated hip hop lyrics, driven by his world class keyboard playing, Alix Nestor’s crystal bell-clear powerhouse of a voice, Jared Meeker’s world class guitar, Blake Collie’s perfectly timed and modulated percussion and the ever present smooth bass lines produced by Tristan Garcia .

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Rise Up” got everyone clapping, head-bobbing with joy as the message and the music flowed together into a visceral feeling that spread through the room. Alix Nester’s soaring voice contrasting with Salvador’s deep rapping moved to a high that the listeners didn’t think could be sustained – until the SSB shifted into their final song, Into the Light”. Salvador brought the house down gently with a long introduction of classical–style piano, setting a mood that quieted the room so you could hear a pin drop as the notes continued and continued, the audience holding its breath because it knew what was coming. When it did, in the form of Alex’s soaring voice and the downbeat from the band as it shifted into a rock beat, framed with Salvador’s rapping.

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If most of the room had not already been on its feet they would have jumped up for a standing ovation. Forgotten were the technical problems with the venue's sound system that delayed the band 15 minutes, as was also forgiven the mix and acoustics that muddied Alix Nester’s voice. The audience was high and happy and wanting more.

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Now that Salvador Santana is in Los Angeles, there will be more, hopefully in larger venues with longer sets. He deserves it and we want it.

Patrick O’Heffernan
Host, Music Friday

Monday, 11 November 2013

Concert played 11/7/13 at Hotel Café in Hollywood.

Album, Rise Up  by Salvador Santana available on the website and iTunes

SSB band members include the Alex Nester (Lead Vocals/Keyboard), Jared Meeker (Guitar), Blake Collie (Drums), and Tristan Garcia (Bass)