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Banner year at Jazzfest - 3 NEWCOMERS WHO SHINED by Chris Riemenschneider

Madeleine Peyroux: It took a lot of gall for this 32-year-old New Yorker to sing her soft, Ella/Billie-style ballads before an overflowing crowd full of purists in the Economy Hall traditional-jazz tent, but it took genuine talent to keep them all captivated. Only the hippies seemed to realize "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" is a Dylan song and not an old standard.

Dwayne Dopsie & Zydeco Hellraisers: This son of the great Rockin' Dopsie is no pup, but his rowdy, gritty swamp-rock set came off like a best-in-show performance.

Otra: The Afro-Cuban jazz-rock ensemble offered deeper proof of New Orleans' rich musical heritage.

BEST of the FEST - Hot Picks at the Fair Grounds this weekend by Keith Spera, Music writer

Otra - Sun., 1:35-2:25
Louisiana Live Lagniappe Stage

On the excellent 2004 CD "Todo Pa'La Gente," Otra orchestrates Afro-Cuban jazz grooves that seem timeless, but are of recent vintage. A mutually beneficial alliance of modern jazz musicians and veteran Cuban percussionists, Otra jumps off from the usual cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba and boogaloo rhythms for melodic, horn-heavy excursions.

OTRA: The Best Sounds Around - Top 15 Louisiana Albums of 2004 by Keith Spera, Music writer

On “Todo Pa’La Gente," Otra orchestrates Afro-Cuban jazz and grooves that seem timeless, but are of recent vintage. A mutually beneficial alliance of modern jazz musicians and veteran Cuban percussionists Humberto “Pupi” Menes on congas and Cristobal “El Canyon” Cruzado on timbales, Otra is not content to recycle standards and the usual cha cha cha, mambo, rumba, and boogaloo rhythms. Instead, those rhythms are jumping off points for jazzier excursions written and/or arranged by pianist Rob Block and bassist Sam Price, brought to melodic and harmonic fruition by trumpeter Eric Lucero and saxophonist Brent Rose. In their capable hands, the jazz standard “Nature Boy” is reimagined south of the border, and the harmonies and hand-claps of the traditional “Ebioso” clear the way for the horns and percussion to bore deeper. Even in such refined contexts, the traditional rhythms are very much intact and very conductive to dancing. Bravo.

OTRA: The Other Latin Beat  

The night grows deep as the band Otra hits the stage. The drummers lock into a brisk percolating rhythm oozing with the essence of Afro-Cuban music. Amplified tones from an upright bass enrich the sound, and electric piano begins to plink with rolling precision. Conversations slowly die down as people are drawn to the warm energy coming from the stage. The trumpet and saxophone are being played rapidly, arching lines that weave in and out of each other. Otra is officially operating at full power, and as the sound washes over the crowd, a gaggle of frantic dancers struggle to keep the pace with the music.

Otra is the brainchild of bassist Sam Price, who developed the concept in the summer of 2002. “Otra, of course, means ‘other,’ and I wanted this band to be filled with fresh, great players out of nowhere, outside of the usual Latin scene. I also wanted to merge jazz concepts with the Latin beat and dig deeper into the African roots of Afro-Cuban music,” says Price. Price couldn’t have had better timing from this project because a “great player out of nowhere” showed up in New Orleans in the spring of 2002. Keyboardist Rob Block moved to town from St. Louis with a pedigree as thick as his original songbook. Block, a guitarist, had been teaching in the music department at Webster University in St. Louis and playing gigs with organ master Charles Earland. Soon after arriving in New Orleans, Block discovered he shared a musical kinship with Price and was sold on the Otra idea. “With Otra, I like to combine the roots of Cuban music with the improv style of modern jazz. The rhythmic style I play in this band is known as the ‘montuno.’ It is a way to play repetitive yet intriguing patterns.”

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TODO PA'LA GENTE - Otra - Independent - 2004  4 PEPPERS!!!!

A Review By Paule Pachter

The New Orleans based latin, jazz, dance band OTRA hasn’t been on the local music scene for long, but they are kicking up a storm in terms of their unique, driving rhythms. One doesn’t usually equate New Orleans or Louisiana as a prime breeding ground for great latin music. We often look toward Miami or New York for great latin salsa, jazz or cubano sounds. Well, look no more because the Crescent City tienes una gema toda la sus el propios con Otra.

“Todo Pa’La Gente (loosely translated ‘all people’) is todo exciting. The CD is rich in its latin rhythms complete with pounding congas, crisp horns, and authoritative timbales. With only nine tracks featured and an average running time of seven minutes per track the CD delivers in terms of making you feel good. Sitting down the music makes you tap your feet and pump your shoulders. Standing up it makes you want to cha cha. Among the tracks that impressed me the most were: “Con Otra New Orleans;” “Candela;” “Mid-City Mambo;” and “Nature Boy.”

Los músicos extremadamente talentosos en Otra incluyen Eric Lucero (trumpet); Brent rose (saxophone); Rob Block (piano), guitar, organ); Sam Price (baby bass); Humberto ‘Pupi’ Menes (congas, chekere) and Cristobal Cruzado (timbales).

“Todo Pa’La Gente is a great piece of work from a great New Orleans band, which earns a four-pepper rating from us. Put this one in the boom box and mambo down Canal Street. Usted puede comprar este CD directamente en línea from Otra’s official website at: www.otramusic.com.

OTRA - Todo Pa’la Gente (Independent) by Christopher Blagg

Afro-Cuban bands are multiplying exponentially of late. That doesn’t mean any of them are any good. Throwing a conga player in the mix and faking one’s way through a cha cha cha does not quite fit the bill. Amidst this sea of half-assed fumbling imitators comes the refreshingly ambitious sextet Otra.

Their debut release Todo Pa’la Gente is brimming with not only the essential boogaloo rythms, but with impressively complex melodies. It’s the compositional and melodic element that is what is lacking in most neo-Latin jazz ensembles, and it is where Otra separates itself from the pack. Not content to take the easy way out with Tito Puente and Buena Vista Social Club covers, Otra finds inspiration in their own creations. The album’s opener “Con Otra In New Orleans” exemplifies the band’s compositional fortitude. Beginning with a percussion/chant intro, the band slowly folds in Rob Block’s piano until finally exploding into a soaring horn-blasting chorus. Block is actually responsible for four of the record’s nine tracks, and each one delivers in spades. “Candela” (not to be confused with the Buena Vista Social Club tune of the same name) is an album highlight with its lyrical, weaving melody, as is the dance floor beckoning sway of “Baila Mi Son”. The playing throughout is first-rate, starting with the relentless rhythmic attack of conga player Pupi Menes and Cristobal Cruzado’s timbales. The mingling of Eric Lucero’s trumpet and Brent Rose’s saxophone is seamless while bassist and leader Sam Price holds down a steady but intriguing bottom. Other album highlights include the Latin jazz makeover of the jazz standard “Nature Boy” and the hand-clap breaks and snaky horn solos of the orisha-inspires “Ebioso”. Unlike many other “Latin” jazz dance bands, Otra brings a passion and dedication to the ever-expanding genre. Simply put, they just get it.

OTRA - Todo Pa' La Gente by Billy Thinnes

This band is all about high-octane, full-throttle, positive energy musical explorations. The Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz hybrid created by Otra has made them a favorite on the Frenchmen Street club scene, and Todo Pa’la Gente does a remarkable job of harnessing the band’s live energy into a recording that can be enjoyed in one’s living room. In fact, this reviewer would even be so bold as to declare this album as an essential inclusion in any and all future house parties. What makes Otra special is their ability to play as one and subvert all ego – Otra music is a finely concocted blend of timbales, congas, bass, percussive piano lines and trumpet and sax leads that weave in and out of each other like the fabric of a finely stitched Oaxacan shirt. Tunes like “Mid-City” and “Loisaida” are utterly infectious and original while they pay homage to influences like Eddie Palmieri and Jerry Gonzales and the Ft. Apache Band. Even if you don’t know a damn thing about this genre of music, this album is worth checking out and should make an otherworldly improvement to your music collection.

OTRA - Todo Pa' La Gente (Independent) by Sound Advice

Lagniappe (Times-Picayune), June 4, 2004

Latin music Bassists Andrew Wolf, left, and Sam Price lead Los Vecinos and Otra, respectively, two local ensembles at the vanguard of a revitalized Latin music scene. Within the progressive-minded Otra, Price and a band that features saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass and percussion use traditional Cuban rhythms – cha cha cha, mambo, rumba, boogaloo – as a jumping-off point for jazzier explorations, as evidenced on Otra’s new debut CD, “Todo Pa’la Gente.” “We’re not reinventing the wheel – Latin jazz has been around since the 1940s,” Price says. “But we like to think that we put our own spin on it.” “But we like to think that we put our own spin on it.” Wolf’s Los Vecinos adheres more closely to the tenets of traditional folkloric Cuban music on a program of standards and some originals. Melodic and rhythmic instruments – acoustic bass, two acoustic guitars, a flute, two saxophones and percussion – interlock in tight arrangements overlaid with Spanish vocals on Los Vecinos’ 2002 release “P’aqui, P’alla.” The music of both Otra and Los Vecinos is highly conducive to dancing.


MAY 7, 2004
El Grupo “Otra” Presenta Su CD Por Carlos Flores

El centro nocurno “BLUE NILE” en 534 Frenchmen Street, en New Orleans, tuvo el honor de presenter al grupo “OTRA”, los que en un ambiente de mucho baile y alegria y en un centro nocturno completamente lleno, presentaron su primer CD, “TODO PA’LA GENTE”. El show tuvo a la gente bailando hasta altas horas de la madrugada y los invitados tuvieron el placer de compartir un delicioso plato de arroz con pollo y frijoles guisados que estuvo muy delicioso.

La banda esta integrada por los musicos siguientes: Director, compositor, arreglos y bajo, Sr. Sam Price (U. S. A.), compositor, arreglos y pianista, Sr. Robert Block (U. S. A.), saxofon y flauta, Sr. Brent Rose (U. S. A.) trompeta, Eric Lucero (Mexico Americano), timbales, Sr. Cristobal Cruzado (Colombia), y Tumbadoras, Sr. Humberto (Pupi) Menes (Cuba).

Los invitados comenzaron a llegar a la fiesta de presentacion como a las 10:30 y las 11:30 el lugar estaba totalmente abarrotado. Los presentes motivados por la musica caliente de “OTRA” bailaron sin parar durante la presentacion del grupo. El centro nocturno en esa noche conto con la presencia de una gran variedad de personajes del norte y sur America.

Refiririendome al CD presentado esa noche por el Grupo “OTRA” puedo decirles que se trata de un disco en el que se manifiestan los ritmos tropicales del Caribe con un legeitimo sabor afro-cubano que en conjunto con la influencia del Jazz americano nos introducen en un mundo musical de salsa en Jazz muy dificil de escuchar sin sentir el deseo de bailar. Esta obra musical es el resultado de la composicion y arreglos proprios de la banda. El disco es una pieza digna de poseer.

Otra - d.b.a.  

D.b.a. was packed on Thursday night as revelers shouted and danced in appreciation of local spacey Afro-Cuban jazz band Otra. Otra translates to "other" in Spanish.

With delicious rhythms and percussive hooks, Latin music made a concert feel like a street party. The local sextet gave the people what they wanted, but they also experimented often and pushed the boundaries of what jazz music should be, a la Miles Davis and Bitches Brew. The band was inventive with tempo changes, and they were able to stuff numerous melodies into one song. The band was saxophonist Brent Rose, bassist Sam Price, pianist Rob Block, trumpeter Eric Lucero, Cristobal Cruzado on timbales and Humberto Menes on tumbadora, bongo, and chekere.

The band was not afraid to get weird: the saxophone dreamily floated in and out of a song and the synthesizer spouted feedback fuzz. A light Caribbean tone is much more common from the piano. The group stuck to original sexy mid-tempo numbers that sweated soul. The band, which was well-rehearsed, was mainly instrumental, but their thematic chants added to the party atmosphere. Song after song, Rose wailed away as the band got louder, while trumpeter Eric Lucero kept the base melody.
The backbone of the band was Cruzado. He was an unassuming man offstage, but he was a polyrhythmic Tasmanian devil during his extended percussive solo. His fills and style have been stolen by modern day rock drummers. Just as energetic onstage was Rose, who blew so much he became breathless. He was rewarded by a wallop of applause.

The band was very cognizant of their surroundings. When a member was smoking, the band rose up and played better. The audience bolstered them in the same way.

The band tried to bring a New Orleans backyard feel to d.b.a., but the touristy and stuffy New York atmosphere of the place always stifled the attempt. The only other thing that killed the party atmosphere was when the band came around with the tip jar (It almost felt like extortion. I will walk up and drop money if I have enjoyed the music, but don’t try and make me feel bad if you’re not gonna charge a cover).

All in all, it was a very fun night. Lucero and Rose are traveling to Switzerland for a few months, so let’s hope the other members can keep up the spirit of the band until they return. It’s real.

Otra's Latin sound aims to be 'a little grittier, earthier and funkier'
by Keith Spera, Music Writer

As a student at Slidell High School in the 1980's, bassist Sam Price pledged his allegiance to hard rock. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Kiss made up the bulk of his musical diet.

Then he and classmate Todd Duke, a guitarist with similar tastes, discovered community jazz and roots-music radio station WWOZ-FM, and everything changed. So enamored were Price and Duke with WWOZ that they embarked on a pilgrimage across Lake Pontchartrain one night to find the station in Armstrong Park.

"Our ears were blown open," Price said recently. "Our whole world expanded just by listening to the great deejays on 'OZ."

His discovery of WWOZ triggered a musical conversion from hard rock to jazz and, eventually, Latin music. The process culminated last year when he founded Otra, an "Afro-Cuban jazz and groove" band staffed with both jazz and Latin musicians. They included veteran percussionists Humberto "Pupi" Memes and Cristobal "El Canyon" Cruzado, plus jazz saxophonist Brent Rose, trumpeter Eric Lucero and keyboardist Rob Block. Otra performs Saturday at Cafe Brasil, makes its Snug Harbor debut on Sunday, then joins Almas Gemelas and Avatar for a Mo' Tunes showcase at the Howlin' Wolf on Wednesday.

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OTRA: 12:20pm, Lagniappe Stage, Latin/Contemporary Jazz  
Otra started making a splash on the New Orleans music scene in 2002 with it's blend of Afro-Cuban Jazz and grooves, a perfect fit for gigs at hopping Frenchmen Street outposts such as the Blue Nile. Led by bassist Sam Price, the band can hit on mambo,cha-cha-cha and boogaloo and also features a full horn section and the deft rhythms of veteran percussionist Pupi Menes.
'Picks and Pans' : Otra - L.S. 12:20-1:10  
The brainchild of bassist Sam Price, these guys throw down New Orleans-style Latin jazz with aplomb. Their saxophonist, Brent Rose, is vying for the most paychecks collected from the festival this year - he plays 3 times today.
Hot Seven by Manny Lander
New Orleans has seen the sprouting of many different Latin bands, each with its own unique sound, and bass player Sam Price has played with the likes of Latin mainstays such as Fredy Omar. Now Price is leading his very own “Afro-Cuban Jazz and Grooves” group called Otra. Drawing upon an array of different periods and styles of Latin music, such as mambo, cha-cha-cha, and boogaloo, Otra plays standards from the Latin and Cuban songbooks for a unique sound of their own. This is also your change to see Otra members and jazz saxophonist Brent Rose performing outside their usual milieu. Also featuring veteran New Orleans Cuban percussionist Pupi Menez and Rob Block on piano, this seven-piece orchestra which also includes drums, trumpet and percussion, will take you on a listening tour of the world of Latin music every Monday night. No cover.
Maybe the newest Latin band on the strip is an Afro-Cuban jazz band, Otra, which translates in English to “other.” Unlike many of the Latin bands in New Orleans, Otra looked for fresh blood when it formed, adopting two newcomers to the city, pianist Rob Block and timbales player Steve Reichlen. Rounding out the ensemble are veterans Brent Rose on saxophone, Bob Garrett on trumpet, and Cuban born percussionist Pupi Menes. Their style is not confined to one specific rhythm or dance, but is an amalgam of several. Says Price, “I’m not trying to reproduce a sound. I try to weave different elements together…I have a great respect for the history of this music and the variety of rhythmic styles, which you really do have to learn in order to internalize them, but I’m not trying to fit any specific style within the Afro-Cuban genre.” When asked if he considers it a probleme that there is only one true Latino in a band playing Latin music, Price acknowledges this disparity saying, “In recent weeks I have noticed more Latino couples dancing at our shows, but I’m glad we have a true Cubano in Pupi.” In fact, while there are several Latino musicians playing in the various ensembles, most of the bands playing Latin music on Frenchmen Street are made up of primarily white musicians, and the audiences for all the shows are also overwhelmingly Anglo. Does it take away from the authenticity of these “Latin” bands? Yolanda Estrada doesn’t think so. She champions bands such as Otra, Los Vecinos and Son Del Pantano regularly on her weekly radio show. “As long as it’s getting out there, I don’t care who plays it,” says Estrada. Concerning the largely white audience patrolling the clubs on Frenchmen she asserts, “Music is the international language. You don’t have to understand what they’re saying to enjoy it.”
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