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Conjunto Carnival

Saturday, December 17, at Belinda's.

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This is a little confusing, estudiantes de la música, but pay attention and we'll come out OK. There are two different kinds of conjunto (both danceable). One is rurally rooted Texas-Mexico border music, usually featuring accordion. The other is Afro-Cuban-based and is both more urban and more urbane. This style interlaces varied Latin American rhythms and styles: salsa, merengue, bachata, and son montono.

Conjunto Carnival specializes in the latter sound. Based on the near West Side, this Carnival came to town two years ago, when local musicians realized that there was a void in Latin "roots" music in Cleveland. Rene Troche -- leader and tres (a Cuban guitar variant) player -- assembled a band of nine, employing sax, trumpet, congas, bongos, timbales, bass, a vocalist (Johnny Natal), and a background vocalist-supplementary percussionist (Natal's son, Jonathan). So alluring was this venture that percussionist Carlos Maldonado -- formerly with the Latin Jazz Project, led by late local legend Roberto Ocasio -- was enticed out of retirement and joined up. Performing almost every weekend, Conjunto Carnival has established a fan base beyond the Hispanic community and devotees of Latin jazz: The subculture known as the "dance-class cabal" (aka "the Arthur Murray mob") embraces them too. If you can't escape to the warmer climes of Central or South America, do the next best thing and dig Conjunto Carnival at Belinda's Nite Club this Saturday.

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