Making crowds move: Vancouver jazz band channels Afro-Cuban sounds

Tight and danceable Afro-Cuban rhythms aren’t what most would expect from a Vancouver-based jazz band, but Rumba Calzada has been making crowds move for over 20 years.

The high energy Latin jazz group brings the genre to life in Vancouver on Dec 16

Rumba Calzada has been playing and performing danceable Afro-Cuban jazz for over 20 years with a new album in the works for 2018. (Rumba Calzada/Facebook)

Danceable Afro-Cuban rhythms aren't what most people expect from a Vancouver-based jazz band, but Rumba Calzada has been making crowds move for over 20 years.

The group is lead by percussionist Raphael Geronimo and was started by his late father, Boying, in the early 90's.

Geronimo discovered the drums while playing with his high school rock band in Steveston, B.C. and began training with his father soon after. 

"He took me to a Santana concert, he knew one of the guys in the band and they were playing at the Orpheum … and that was it," Geronimo told Hot Air host Margaret Gallagher.

"Latin and rock, that was what I needed." 

His father walked him through the basic rhythms on bongo and conga drums, but his patient teacher never pushed him until he heard Raphael play the patterns perfectly.

"He was kind of like that Karate Kid way, of you do one pattern for a long time until you get it right and then the next one comes," Geronimo said.

Once he had the ear for the high-energy percussion patterns that define the Afro-Cuban genre, Geronimo travelled to New York to study Latin jazz at the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts where he soaked up all the music he could.

"Every night there was something going on. I was there for a few months so I had spaced it out, a couple times a week ... I'd hit these clubs and watch awesome jazz," he said.

After his father's sudden death in 1995, Geronimo made sure he followed through with the long list of shows Rumba Calzada had booked, and played them in honour of Boying.

Since then, the demand from festivals and jazz venues has grown and Geronimo hopes to tour their new album internationally in the coming year.

"There's always this draw to continue, there's always a reason.

"It's a super outlet for me, to write my own music and put it in this group and… really express myself."

Rumba Calzada plays Frankie's Jazz Club on Dec 16 at 8 p.m. premiering songs from their upcoming album.

To hear the full interview with Raphael Geronimo and the music of Rumba Calzada on Hot Air listen to media below:

Afro-Cuban jazz in Vancouver with Rumba Calzada 53:47

With files from the CBC's Hot Air