Chévere de Chicago

chevere1Think Latin Jazz ensemble with a Jewish harmonica player as the front man. What more is there to say?


I enjoy Latin music and my wife is a big fan.  It was her birthday, we took a chance. We do not go to many concerts or visit the almost infinite number of music venues in the Chicago areas. We both enjoy music but I am an early guy and headliners in clubs usually start too late (for me).

The opportunity to do something a little different presented itself. The venue was newly opened, not far from the house (though in a rough neighborhood) and the music started at 8. Even I could handle that.

I had heard of the group but knew little about them. What a discovery! Turns out they had been playing together for over 20 years. Nine members. Three percussion, one piano/harmonica, one bass guitar, a lead guitar, an electronic keyboardist and two horn players (one sax and flute, one trumpet.)

First the visuals. With no one on stage, the instruments were imposing. In rows. Row one. Piano stage left, moving right to 3 large congas with silver chimes, on to a drum set connected to a set of bongos and gold chimes longer than the silver ones. Finishing off the front row are stands with sax and flute, then trumpet, the kind with the horn extending skyward. The second row was rhythm guitar, bass and two electronic keyboards forming a right angle—the word Moog (as in synthesizer) written on the one facing the audience. Finally in the back was a full drum set complete with large cymbals.

On came the band members. Only the three percussionists looked as if they belonged in a Latin jazz band. The others were standard white guys. Interesting set of shapes. Two were short and round. Howard Levy, the harmonica-piano guy is long and slender. The others were average height mostly slender. Trumpet-flute guy was the only one who looked unhappy to be there. The others wore expressions ranging from modest amusement to joy.

Last of the memorable visuals. The Blur. We were close enough to have see hands fly. Whether Howard on piano, Joe Rendon on congas or Ruben Alverez on bongos the speed of fingers and hands were amazing. Blurred motions leading to a cacophony of individual sounds.

Yes finally to the sound of Chevere de Chicago. As you might expect a heavy dose of percussion. Percussion in extreme varieties of rhythms, tones, volumes and combinations. The horns, guitar, bass, piano or the occasional vocal would join in. The numbers were long, would wane and wax and were joyous. The only negative part of this wonderful, new room was that there was no dance floor. The music made you want to dance. The penultimate piece was not as lively but extremely beautiful. It was a tango written by the band leader Alejo Poveda for his daughter.

One last thing about the music. I have heard for years about the harmonica skills of Howard Levy. I am accustomed to the harmonica sounds of the blues. A few individual notes wailing perhaps but mostly chords. This was the first time I had ever experienced the harmonica as an instrument of melody. Crisp individual notes as beautiful as a piano.

I wish I had not waited twenty years for my first Chevere experience. It will not be that long until the second.

Listen to the rhythms here and the Latin jazz here


About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

2 Responses to Chévere de Chicago

  1. Frank says:

    You live an interesting life. Very cool description and excellent event. Thanks for the music, too. I’m planing that one right now. Love it.

  2. 48facets says:

    I live a live with some interesting moments. I am not sure that it is an interesting life just because there are too many alternative nights where I collapse rather than live.

    It is evident to me that writing about the interesting moments does help me savior them more and reminds me that this is a part of my existence. I owe that to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: