CULTURE

Pucho enjoys belated recognition

Now in his mid-60s, Pucho, the bandleader of the Latin Soul Brothers, a pivotal act in merging jazz, Latin, soul and funk in the early 1970s, went largely unnoticed during his heyday but, in more recent times, has enjoyed wider recognition for his musical vision. Pucho, born Henry Brown and raised in New York’s Harlem district, made an unexpected comeback a little over a decade ago thanks to the popularity of acid jazz, to which his early work was a key contributor. He formed a new version of the Latin Soul Brothers in 1992 and, soon after, recommenced performing and recording. Over the past week, Pucho and his Latin Soul Brothers have been entertaining crowds at the Half Note Jazz Club in Athens, with one performance remaining, tonight. After working as a sideman for pianist Joe Panama in the late 1950s, Pucho formed his own band when Panama’s outfit disbanded in 1959. Several of the disintegrated act’s members joined him. Calling themselves Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, they recorded prolifically for a decade, beginning in the mid-1960s. Disillusioned by the lack of response to his work, Pucho shelved the project in 1975 and headed for the mountains to earn a living performing gigs in resort hotels. But the acid jazz explosion of the early 1990s, initiated in the UK by exciting acts such as the James Taylor Quartet and Corduroy, brought the aging artist out of the woods and onto city stages. He put together a new Latin Soul Brothers edition for extensive touring between 1993 and 1995 and then returned to the studio to record a new album, 1995’s «Rip a Dip.» The musician’s more recent activity – performances, recordings and rereleases of some older work – has combined to offer far more exposure than the aging act had ever enjoyed during his career’s core phase. Also at the Half Note Jazz Club, Mario Canonge, a gifted Paris-based pianist from the Caribbean island of Martinique who has established an international reputation, begins a one-week series of shows tomorrow. Canonge, a versatile musician who has adapted his playing to a wide variety of genres, including jazz, salsa and zouk, has worked with an impressive array of vocalists and musicians including the American singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. Hooked on the piano as a youngster, Canonge’s first assignment entailed accompanying a church choir in Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique. The task led to his first travel experience, when, at the age of 17, Canonge and the choir performed in Paris in 1977. He returned to France two years later to study sound recording and musicology but, despite showing a keen interest in these fields, was drawn back to the piano. Over the past two decades, Canonge, who grew up in a household of talented pianists, has guested on more than 50 albums and performed countless concerts as a solo act. He has focused his efforts on opening up new musical horizons and encouraging various forms of musical exchange, while also promoting traditional music from Haiti, Cuba, Cape Verde and his native Martinique. The artist’s open-minded approach to music has produced a diverse repertoire and an extensive following in various parts of the world.