While fans and pundits debate back and forth about South Florida's contributions to the national -- and, dare we say, international -- musical mainstream, there's little doubt we can take some credit for the ever-burgeoning popularity of Latin fusion.
Hialeah-bred combo Electric Piquete is one of the area acts that makes good on its own contributions to Miami's jazz and funk sounds. Formed in 2007, the group made its debut at Hialeahfest in October 2008 and began playing out consistently the next year. After that, it took scant time for the band's dynamic live performances to garner it the distinction of Best Latin Band by Miami New Times and "Band of the Hour" from Miami.com. Its seven-song eponymous debut subsequently appeared in March 2011 and featured contributions from members of local sonic legends the Spam Allstars.
DJ Le Spam is currently behind the boards for the forthcoming full-length follow-up, which the group has previewed with the single "En La Playa Giron," available for purchase on iTunes.
We asked bassist Michael Mut to supply some additional information on Electric Piquete's present M.O. and the public's love of all things Latin.
New Times: To what do you attribute the burgeoning popularity of this fusion of Latin funk?
Michael Mut: I think it is largely a reflection of the multicultural meshing that's been going on in South Florida for the last three or four decades. It also has a lot to do with the ever-growing interest in, and presence of, all things Hispanic in the realms of music, art, and pop culture.
How did the band first come about?
Ed and I used to work together at what was then known as Bassin Distributors, a national music one-stop and one of the biggest at the time. He became a friend and musical mentor, turning me on to '70s jazz fusion groups like Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as Latin jazz records by the Fania All-Stars and Cal Tjader and Eddie Palmieri, mainly through old-school mix tapes. We kept in touch over the years and eventually started jamming and writing together.
Who were some of your early influences?
One of the first songs I can ever remember hearing on the radio was "Pick Up the Pieces" by the Average White Band. Herb Alpert's "Rise" and Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good" also stand out. I was also heavily influenced by the proggy-metal of Metallica and the dark jazz leanings of the Doors. I also loved Heat Wave's radio-friendly funk.
How did your first album come about? Was it all original material? If so, who wrote the songs?
Our debut EP came about because we thought we had reached a point that we had enough material that was good enough to present to and record with our then-producer, Ferny Coipel. We had five originals, one funked-up cover of the Buena Vista Social Club's "Chan Chan," and a remix deftly done by our current producer DJ Le Spam. There were a couple of tunes that came together as a result of my ideas coming together with melodies written by Ozzy ("Fonquetazo" and "Cutty and Water Blues"), one song each individually written by Ozzy ("Groovy on a Sunday Afternoon") and Chris ("Heart of Soul"), and another born of a true band collaboration ("Mother Smother"). I actually like the remix of "Mother Smother" a lot better than the original nowadays.
What is the plan going forward?
We're going to continue to record tracks at City of Progress with DJ Le Spam with the hopes of releasing another record in the fall of this year. And also to continue to work with our booking agent, Cosmo Ohms, from the Anamaze Booking Agency to try to land regional and national festival gigs this fall and into next year.
Anything else you'd like to add?
The first single from our new release -- an instrumental tribute to the men of 2506 Brigade and the Bay of Pigs Invasion -- is called "En La Playa Giron." It's available for download on our iTunes store and features stellar guest performances by Chad Bernstein from Suenalo on trombone, Tony "Smurphio" Laurencio from AfroBeta on keyboards, and our friend Santiago Carmona on alto sax. Readers can try it before they buy on our Soundcloud.
Electric Piquete will plays its first show in Palm Beach County this Saturday, July 27, at 9:30 p.m. at the Funky Buddha, 2621 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Entrance is $6. The show is ages 21 and over and presented by Graceful Sounds Radio 96.3 FM. Call 954-440-0046, or visit thefunkybuddha.com.
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