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Feb 11th
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Slap Attack

In the world of innovative jazz guitar, Raul Midón reigns king

Raul Midón has collaborated with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Jason Mraz, and India Arie, but the classically trained guitarist, percussionist and pianist is quickly becoming nothing short of legendary in his own right.

His funkified, percussive guitar technique, and soulful vocals sell out shows from Paris to Tokyo to his home base in New York City, and Midón doesn’t play favorites. “I’ve always loved playing; I’ll play wherever they’ll have me,” he says. “I think in almost any city if you have fans in the audience, then you have a good audience.”

Midón’s gorgeous compositions are made up of constantly evolving, honest songwriting that is inspired by a variety of musical histories. A New Mexico native, who lost his eyesight as an infant, Midón studied music at the University of Miami, after which he worked in the city’s Latin-pop music scene as a background singer for artists like Julio and Enrique Iglesias and Shakira.

Despite his work in the Latin-pop scene, the glossy industry didn’t inspire his own music as much as some of the city’s other vibrant enclaves. “Living in Miami exposed me to Cuban music,” he recalls. “Particularly what caught my ear was sort of what I call ‘roots music’ from Cuba, Guaguancó, and things like that, as opposed to the pop stuff which I worked on, but really didn’t listen to.”

Still, his vocals reflect a sort of pop mentality in their emotive, lustful ability to mesmerize audiences. Combine that easy-listening quality with the complex rhythms of Cuban rumba music, Argentine folk music (his father hails from Argentina), flamenco, and his jazz guitar training, and you’ve got Midón’s signature slap-attack style in a nutshell—hypnotic strumming doused in funk flavor.

Midón attributes his love of blending musical genres and cultural influences to his family’s enthusiastic support for his craft ever since he was a child. “It all plays its part, it sort of makes me the non-catagorizable musician that I am,” he says.

Finding that Miami was “a place where people go to relax” and thus “unresponsive” to his solo work, Midón moved to New York in the early 2000s to push his career to the next level. In 2005, he released his first album, critically-acclaimed State of Mind, with the help of Manhattan Records and Grammy Award-winning producer Arif Mardin. Soon after, he released two more albums: 2007’s A World Within a World and 2009’s Synthesis.

In just four years, Midón’s sound and lyrical content greatly evolved. “I’ve found my voice in a sense as an artist,” he explains. “I think I have an identity, but it’s to do with the combination of the vocals and guitar together.” Midón says he has a natural desire to experiment with his songwriting. “You sort of start writing autobiographical songs and songs about how misunderstood you were or whatever, and then in the last album, particularly, I got into writing a little more fleshed-out characters and sort of writing more stories.” Tracks like “Bonnie’s Song” and “When You Call My Name” demonstrate his new narrative direction.

While itching to put out another record—“I’ve taken time, maybe too much time,” he admits—touring is his priority at the moment; he will stop by Kuumbwa Jazz on Monday, April 2. Once the tour is complete, he will return to New York to work on his next highly anticipated effort.

Though traveling can take a toll on Midón, he values the opportunity to hone his craft in front of a supportive crowd. “That’s the fortunate thing,” he says of this point in his career, “I play for my fans now.

Raul Midón plays at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 2, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320 Cedar St. #2, Santa Cruz.

Tickets are $25/adv, $28/door. For more information, call 427-2227.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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