Band a product of Cuban influences
Ron Stallings may not be visiting Cuba now, but the culture is a part of his everyday life.
So much so that the saxophonist-vocalist founded Que Calor with Mark Levine when they traveled to Havana in 1997 to study with master musicians. It was Stallings’ third or fourth trip and Levine’s first trip there.
Five years later and the San Francisco-based Que Calor is still mixing all of its American jazz songs with Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Que Calor, which Stallings translates to “how hot” or “wet heat,” will perform Friday at Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.
The six-piece Bay Area band incorporates traditional West African rhythms with Spanish Flamenco, French contredanse, Puerto Rican bomba and Cuban cha-cha, mambo and bembe.
“All of these rhythms are dance rhythms without a doubt, but the influence of jazz means to me they’re not strictly for dance,” Stallings said. “That’s the modern jazz influence for listening jazz. If you feel like dancing, that’s OK too, get up and dance.”
For now, playing the Cuban-influenced music in venues across California will have to do for Stallings. His next trip to Cuba won’t be until next winter.
“When I’m there, I’m taken. Cuba’s very unique, there’s a special level of empathy and rapport through the people and music that’s rare,” Stallings said.
Percussionist Michael Spiro arrives for this performance immediately following a month performing and teaching in Cuba. On Saturday, Spiro and drummer Paul van Wageningen will lead a lecture-demonstration workshop with some hands-on instruction.
The workshop is open to anyone (age 10 and up) who wants to learn about the history, traditions and rhythms of Latin jazz.
The $15 workshop is from noon to 4 p.m. Call Bill Douglass at 273-5489 to reserve a space or e-mail him at
Both the concert and workshop are presented by Douglass’ “Listen2Jazz” series and the Nevada County Arts Council.
WHAT: Que Calor concert
WHEN: Friday at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley
ADMISSION: $12 advance, $14 at door, $5 for students with ID. Tickets at Odyssey Books, BriarPatch, Herb Shop, Foggy Mountain Music and the Nevada County Arts Council office.
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