DESCARGA REVIEW: August 14, 2007
Editors Pick: Elspeth Savani’s Gallo Que Canta, produced by percussionist Michael Spiro, is the fruition of years of great love and respect for the music and culture. Listen to "Rompiendo La Rutina" and you'll find a rare purity of spirit. And many of the tracks exude a formal beauty, a richness that only seasoned musicians that are dedicated to the form can induce. The sweetness of Savani's voice can, at times, eclipse all else. And that's not a bad thing. There are a number of Lucumí references here, and Savani can make inviting what some might have difficulty approaching ordinarily. I especially like her rendition of the jazz standard "All of Me." And her take on Alvaro Carrillo's "Un Poco Más" is simply stunning. The band is top notch….”
Highly Recommended. (Bruce Polin)
LATIN BEAT: October 2007
Vocalist Elspeth Savani has been fronting and directing Orchestra Zarabanda (formerly Yerbabuena) for the better part of a decade…Her newest release showcases a seasoned vocalist in the company of a rock-solid orchestra comprised of excellent musicians, in addition to special guests Jovino Santos Neto, Marco de Carvalho and Anthony Blea. Produced by percussionist Michael Spiro (who was also featured on Cuban and Brazilian percussion throughout the recording) this production makes romantic Cuban dance music sizzle with joy, as it comes alive via the powerful interpretations of Savani and friends. A collection of 11 songs performed in Spanish (with the exception of the track All of me, which Savani interprets in English and the track Prelude to Silencio, which she sings in Yoruba), are sure to touch you and lift your spirits.
SEATTLE WEEKLY – Notable shows (August 2006): Orchestra Zarabanda. “Summer is the best time for big-band Cuban dance music, and no one in Seattle plays it better than this 10-piece outfit…a retro ballroom sound that will ship you straight to the Havana of your imagination.”
TIMES COLONIST (VICTORIA, CANADA)
"It took some vibrant Cuban rhythms and scores of Victorians dancing along to break the chilly weather and grey clouds that covered the ICA Folkfest this week. Hundreds of people crowded the stands and filled the parking lot in front of the stage as Seattle's Yerbabuena warded off the evening's chill with warm, thriving beats on the fifth night of the Inner Harbour's cultural festival. Capturing traditional Cuban dances such as the cha-cha-cha, the group's 12-member charanga orchestra put together a string of lengthy songs that kept couples salsa dancing and the crowd swaying, even drawing an audience above on Wharf Street..."
SEATTLE TIMES "Night Watch" by Tom Scanlon
"One of the most popular and entertaining bands currently jamming around Seattle doesn't play indie rock, nor punk, nor metal. Prog rock? Emo? Hardcore? Fusion? No, no, no. Folk? Nope. Not alt-country either. [Orchestra Zarabanda] plays Cuban dance music - big band style.
How big? Here's a checklist: Total members, 12; vocalists/ dancers, 3; drummer, traditional, 1; percussionists, other, 2; stand-up bass, 1; keyboard, 1; violins, 3; flute, 1; amorous couples dancing, dozens.
Please don't think [Orchestra Zarabanda]....is a quick attempt to cash in on the Buena Vista Social Club craze, as the band has been playing around the Northwest for 8 plus years and puts on quite a show. Individual songs are as intoxicating as anything the bartender can serve, as simple beats and melodies keep getting layer upon layer as instruments join the groove, building a mesmerizing complex.
Those who don't know the similarly layered and increasingly intricate salsa steps can still be taken away by this Latin orchestra; if you can master the moves, of course, you're really styling. On a recent Saturday evening, Yerbabuena played a venue across town, bringing in enough people out of the rain to pack the spacious Ballard Firehouse..."
VICTORY REVIEW, October 2001
"Cuban traditional dance music has had a huge renaissance in recent years. With the success of Buena Vista Social Club and others, fans are scrambling to find other quality bands and recordings. Seattleites need look no further than their own backyard. We are home to the impressive 12-piece charanga orchestra Yerbabuena. They have been performing since 1994 but have waited until now to release their debut CD. It was worth the wait. Equally adept at son, chachacha, guaguanco and danzon, Yerbabuena is upbeat and warmly inviting. Jim O'Halloran's flute solos are a highlight in a band that plays as a unit. Primarily playing Cuban standards, Yerbabuena offers may new arrangements and has included two originals. Vaiven de Mar is an extremely self-assured debut release by a local band that will most definitely be playing to larger audiences very soon. Try to catch them the next time they play so that you can say you knew them when.
"...a big band full of life...they billed themselves as playing son, danzon, and cha-cha-cha, but to the unscholarly it was all just good dance music."
-The Salsa Siren
"They demonstrated that music doesn't have to be relegated to cultural and geograghic borders; it can--and does--go where the love of the music wanders."
-Mark Teppo, review of the Experience Music Project opening concerts.
"Seattle has no reason to envy New York, because Seattle has a charanga, which is very unusual . . . a fine orquesta with excellent musicians. This orchestra could really go far."
-Legendary Cuban flutist Richard Egues on Weekday, KUOW, Seattle.
"This city should take care of this orchestra because they have a group of great cultural value, because of their quality they will earn a big name"
-Legendary Cuban flutist Richard Egues on KBCS, Bellevue.
"Romantic Cuban dance music comes alive..."
"Keep your eye out for [Orchestra Zarabanda], a fun 12-piece dance group."
"The Century Ballroom could be just another all-American bucket-of wings kind of dance hall, but the last time I was there [Orchestra Zarabanda] and legendary flutist Richard Egues were serving up nothing but delicious Cuban pork chunks and congri."
"...they can't stop [Orchestra Zarabanda], who has always played their breezy and beautiful son and chachacha for love..."