Sonic experiments

Santa Mamba’s Saints and Sinners; plus RiverSing
By BOB GULLA  |  June 15, 2006


Over the years, watching the research and development of Santa Mamba, formerly Planet Groove, has felt something like observing the machinations of a laboratory, with each of its principle members scientists. “Let’s mix these ingredients,” they say. “Let’s shake it up, and see what happens.” And so they mix it and shake it and watch what brew results. Usually what happens is at the very least interesting; each musician on the Santa Mamba team is nothing if not an impressive fusion of dedication and skill, which makes watching them play live a real treat. Their new disc, Saints and Sinners, is a collection of four studio songs and four live recordings that cannily combines their evolving studio facility with the excitement of their shows. Once again, it’s a shrewd move for the band, perfect for exploring radio potential while at the same time appealing to their growing fan base.

Since forming more than a decade ago, the band has challenged the notion that Latin music is only for Latinos by melding it with American rock, soul, and jazz elements. Guitarist and founding member John Medeiros, one of the chief perpetrators of that approach, is a slick blend of Larry Carlton and Carlos Santana and his clean, stinging sound — best heard here on anthemic songs such as “Sube Sube” and the Spanglish-y “Ritmo” — is one of the band’s sonic signatures. Another defining quality is the attention to percussive detail, an instrumental element that often suffers at the hands of more dominant instruments. But Santa Mamba truly understands the importance of rhythm, especially within its soul-rock-Latin hybrid, and the percussionistic detail — led by drummer/founder Ajay Coletta, percussionist candido Mendoza, and singer/percussionist Gio Murillo — is outstanding. The opener “Mi Reyna” finds the band exploring reggaeton (a tip of that hat to the burgeoning style), underscored with a tasty string arrangement, propped up by a wiggy Medeiros solo and a funky bass line thrummed by Nick Wade. It’s a sweet departure for Santa Mamba, who, on the studio tracks here, seems intent on seeking out fertile new turf on which to experiment. On Saints and Sinners, they seem to have found it.

Santa Mamba will celebrate the release of Saints and Sinners this Saturday (the 17th) at the Water Street Café in Fall River, Massachusetts. Call 508.672.8748.

Sing out!!
RIVERSING is back. This Saturday (June 17), Pawtucket will come alive from 12 until 9 pm with the sounds of more than 80 musical performers for the second annual event at Slater Mill. Eight stages will be set up on both sides of the Blackstone River, and the music will cut a wide swath through jazz, country, folk, hip-hop, gospel, and reggae. Featured performers? Bill Harley, Trouz Braz, Kim and Reggie Harris, the Mystic Chorale with Nick Page and Jonathan Singleton, and the Guy Mendilow Group, to name a few. There will be drum workshops, storytelling/poetry readings, a dance tent, a make-and-take area, and a slew of craft, art, and food vendors, extensive activities and entertainment for children, plus at least three “Grand Sings” (at 2:45, 6, and 9:30), with audience participation on both sides of the river. Admission to RiverSing is free. Call 401.725.8638 or go to

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