November 23, 2005

Chicano Groove Coming Out of New Jersey

By Francisco H. Ciriza

Along with major talent and hard work, optimism and a strong work ethic have been major ingredients for success for New Jersey’s deSol. The Latin outfit heavy on groove and soul represent a growing number of groups clinging to their Latino roots and influences while still producing a sound inclined to be more accessible to mainstream music fans. Their first single, Karma, from the self-titled debut album on Curb Records is a rich mix of seventies Chicano groove and hip adult alternative with elaborate percussion and bilingual lyrics.

The single represents the band’s efforts at finding the perfect musical balance. While understanding full well this is very likely next to impossible to achieve, the group focuses on this ideal in order to channel a burning passion and vision that has seen the band through its share of trials and triumphs.

deSol (left to right): George Saccal, Andy Letke, Armando Cabrera (seated), Albie Monterrosa, Chris Guice, James Guerrero (seated), and Soto

La Prensa San Diego caught up with the band’s lead vocalist, Albie Monterrosa, shortly before a recent San Diego concert appearance. The son of El Salvadoran immigrants, Monterrosa, is a native of Queens, N.Y., but moved to New Jersey at age 21. He fronted band after band, chasing his rock star dreams inspired by the likes of John Lennon and Bob Mar-ley, but it was the showmanship of Mick Jagger and Rolling Stones that perhaps made the biggest impression on the evolving front man. However, while he knew Jagger’s charisma and stage presence was key, there was something still missing.

Monterrosa decided to take a break and head for the Virgin Islands and ultimately found himself exploring his musical roots. There he saw girl playing Spanish rhythms on her congas. “When I jam-med [on guitar] with her, I actually started moving my hand differently to accommodate the Latino swing. And I found out what I was missing was being true to myself. Being that music comes from the depths of you, I needed to express my culture.”

Upon his return to the US, Monterrosa immediately set out looking for Latino players. He first found Armando Cabrera, a percussionist born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico who’d learned his music in the streets from performers whose ancestors were steeped in the deepest Afro-Cuban traditions. The two hit it off immediately essentially finding that perfect creative and cultural balance Monter-rosa had been seeking.

After putting together a full band, their first demo tape caught the ear of Franke Previte, the gifted songwriter who won the Academy Award for “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing”. Franke recognized the band’s talent immediately and became their manager eventually landing a deal with Curb Records.

Released in July of 2005 the CD has served to gain the band critical acclaim as well as creating opportunities for the group to appear at high-profile concerts and events such as a gig in Mexico City with R.E.M., Lollapalooza 2005, Austin City Limits Festival and tours with the Legendary Wailers and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

It seems major success can’t be too far around the corner for Monterrosa and mates as playing live is the band’s strength. “We just go out there and do what we know is in our hearts. It’s not something you can fake,” said Monterrosa, “People enjoy our live shows, because we enjoy them just as much.”

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