Gilberto Santa Rosa, Oscar D'Leon | House of Blues | International | Chicago Reader
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Gilberto Santa Rosa, Oscar D'Leon Early Warnings (Music) The List (Music) Soundboard

When: Thu., May 6, 8:30 p.m. 2010
Price: $53, $48 in advance, 17+
Last year's El Caballero de la Salsa (Sony Music Norte) surveys nearly two decades of hits by Puerto Rican salsero Gilberto Santa Rosa, who's been one of tropical music's dominant vocalists for at least that long. Almost every song, even the ballads, simmers with rich Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, but the radio-friendly recordings are less than ideal showcases for the improvisation that's his greatest strength—the arrangements are treacly and predictable, too short to really let him stretch out, and marred by overcompression and annoying synths. When Santa Rosa plays live, though, his band gives him plenty of room. He plays with rhythm, phrasing, and melody like a teppanyaki chef with his knives in the air, slicing and dicing and rearranging: he might use repetition of a single passage to whip up tumultuous tension, lengthen or shorten a line, play against the accent pattern of a song, or clench and loosen his articulation, but no matter what he does it feels effortlessly musical. Even the many fine records he's made over the years are an inadequate substitute for hearing him in concert. —Peter Margasak

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