It seems that Ozomatli have been around forever! It is a band that I have known since I arrived in Los Angeles, and I still remember going to East LA to see them perform. I also still remember their triumph during a concert during the Twilight Series in Santa Monica, there were so many people on the pier that night! The multi-ethnic, multi-talented members of Ozomatli with their all-over-the-place hybrid music have been a symbol of this town for about 19 years, and I have seen them many times during all these years.
They were the first band to play at Amoeba ever, and they were back on Tuesday night for the release of their new and 8th full-length album ‘Place in the Sun’. And they are very aware they have had their place in the sun. One thing you can be sure with them is that they will bring enough energy to throw up a party right away. They always have a playful side and their ability to mix cumbia (or anything Latin) rhythms with reggae or hip hop is contagious. On Tuesday night, they did a few new ones such as the bright ‘Tus Ojos’, or the foot-tapping ‘Only Love’, and reinvented old classics (and crowd’s favorites, seeing how many iPhones were up in the air) like ‘Cumbia’ which showcased Asdru’s amazing vocals. These songs, new or old, just brought enough sunshine and mixed rhythms to sum up their whole career. Sure, nothing in all this sounded really new to me, I have seen them in concert too many times to be surprised by their music, but the Ozomatli sound, this intricate mix of guitar, trumpet, tres, table, saxophone, melodica, and percussion, this eclectic approach to world music deeply rooted in Latino rhythms,…was undeniably present.
On this new album, there is a collaboration with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and the well-named ‘Brighter’ was a very catchy, feel-good reggae-inspired tune that made everyone dance in the store. Honestly, this is not a collaboration that I expected, but Ozomatli has been so much all over the place – just check out their Wikipedia page – that nothing should surprise me at this point. Positive vibe? Collective spirit and infectious grooves? Yeah, all of the above, plus a true dynamism, even more obvious when they were joined by their special guests. ‘No, it’s not Prince!’ said vocalist Asdru. Hey, this could have been possible, the Purple one had just played a marathon concert at the Palladium a few days ago, and last time I saw Ozomatli calling a special guest, Stevie Wonder showed up. Instead Voces del Rancho, a Mexican norteno band, came to the stage and they played together the energizing ‘Paleta’. There were lots of clapping, lots of dancing between the Amoeba CDs rows and Ozo came back for an encore with ‘Chango’, of their first album,… they always go back to that first one! They even announced they will be playing the annual Los Lobos Cinco de Mayo festival at the Greek Festival with Mariachi El Bronx, and that appeared to be totally obvious to me… I just wonder whether they will show up at Dave Stewart’s ‘A Rock & Roll Circus’ at the El Rey on Friday night. I don’t want to give them some ideas but why not?
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