An active force in Latin jazz since the 1960s, the Bay Area icon, bandleader and patriarch of the musical Escovedo family (which includes his percussionist-singer daughter Sheila E. and his drummer-producer son Peter Michael) brought his 11-piece orchestra to the Gift Center in San Francisco for a rousing concert in the wake of his successful 1988 Concord Crossover album, Mister E.
They open their set with Escovedo's energized mambo "Charango Sunrise," which features potent solos from synth player Dan Shea and trombonist Dan Reagan along with a couple of exhilarating percussion breakdowns with Escovedo and his two sons Juan and Peter Michael. Turning to more rock-oriented fare, drummer Peter Michael Escovedo next provides a slamming backbeat behind David Yamasaki's distortion-laced guitar lines and Melecio Magdalyo's urgent tenor sax wailing on Ray Obiedo's "Modern Dance." The lively "Zina's Zamba," which is anchored by Dutch bassist Marc van Wageningen's bubbling electric bass groove, features some lovely flugelhorn playing by Robbie Kwock over the percolating samba groove. Trumpeter Mike Galisatus and pianist Shea also turn in bristling solos on this affecting Escovedo original before the piece culminates with another churning three-way percussion jam by the family members on the bandstand.
Escovedo and company next introduce the first vocal number of the set, a rendition of Parmenio Salazar's salsa classic, "Sonerito," which features an outstanding extended trombone solo by Jeff Cressman. Dan Shea's funky "Mister E," the title track of Escovedo's Concord album out at the time, introduces a bit of smooth jazz to the set and also showcases Robbie Kwock's tasty trumpet work. They close out their set with the percussion jam showcase "Gingerbread Girl" and encore with the son montuno fueled "What'cha Gonna Do?," which has Yamasaki wailing like Carlos Santana over the percolating groove.
Born on July 13, 1935 in Pittsburg, California, the Mexican-American musician started out on saxophone before switching to vibes and finally percussion. He formed the Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet with his young brothers Coke and Phil and became an in-demand group in Northern California during the mid '60s. In 1967, guitarist Carlos Santana recruited Pete and Coke for his emerging San Francisco rock group Santana, two years before they broke through to international attention following their appearance at Woodstock in 1969. In 1972, Pete and Coke formed the innovative San Francisco-based Latin fusion group Azteca, which included future Return To Forever drummer Lenny White, fusion Journey guitarist Neil Schon, future Headhunters bassist Paul Jackson and jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell. In 1976, he recorded his first album as a leader for the Fantasy label, Solo Two, which featured his teenaged daughter Sheila E. on percussion and former Mahavishnu Orchestra member Billy Cobham on drums.
Escovedo continued to lead large ensembles through the '80s and '90s, touring and recording exclusively for the California-based Concord label. One noteworthy release during that period was 1989's La Familia, featuring his daughter Sheila E. and salsa king Tito Puente. Escovedo's most recent release is 2013's acclaimed big band outing Live from Stern Grove, recorded at the 2012 Stern Grove Festival near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. - Bill Milkowski