On a cold Wednesday night at an area in Cleveland called Coventry sets a jazzy, high-end, but low-key haunt, called Nighttown. In this club you will suddenly transform into a classy, though musically tasteful, being—that is, if you are not one already.
Walking in is like visiting a vintage art museum, while having your nostrils captivated by the smell of various gourmet dishes. This is not all mi gente!
From afar I heard a musical kaleidoscope of eclectic sounds; lit by 4-stage lights and on a somewhat intimate stage setting with tables surrounding them. I looked closer and saw all brown faces!
“¿QUE?” I said to myself sans souci, turning around back to the other side of the wall,
“These guys are not mariachis!” They are a group from East L.A. called, “Quetzal.”
Named after the national bird of Guatemala , this six member band (predominantly Mexican or Chicano) carried a wide variety of sounds that defeats the original stereotype of a round about everyday Latino/a band.
[Quetzal birds are also found all over Central America . The Mayans saw the colorful Quetzal as a symbol of their way of life.]
Quetzal has been around for 11 years, founded by guitarist/jarana/bajo sexto player Quetzal Flores, the band’s grassroots approach to fusing the folk styles of México and Cuba in son and bolero, alongside tasteful elements of rock and blues, carves an inspiring path in the tiresome music industry.
After the successful release of their second album, Sing the Real (and subsequent shows alongside the likes of Los Lobos, Aerosmith, Ozomatli, Taj Mahal, and Michelle Shocked), Quetzal proved beyond doubt their ability to play intimate clubs and large arenas alike without a hitch, gaining fans at every stop.
While performing, you can tell their hearts are into the music as if they are recreating the whole premise of the song.
The two lead singers—Gabriel and Marta González—are a one, two brother-and-sister combination. Gabriel is the stomper, pounding the ground with so much authority, as if he were telling the audience to beware of his hot, Latino rhythms.
Marta was captivating, as she was performing for two—she is six months pregnant!
She stomped as well, while playing the congas and a wooden instrument with beads around it, called the chekere.
Marta’s singing voice was hard to describe. We always have a habit in comparing awesome people with other great people. At first, I thought she sounded like an intensified Gloria Estefan; then, her voice changed to mellow, as if she sounded like Roberta Flack.
To say that she sounded somewhere in between would not be doing her justice. Let’s just say she sounds like herself and I will let you decide whom she sounds like.
Quetzal’s sound is so indescribable that their own record company—Vanguard Records—doesn’t know what category to niche them in.
“Our album gets placed under different sections in the music store. In one store, it is under “Latino,” the other, under “World,” or another, under “Latin Rock,” said Marta.
Quetzal’s lyrics range from all English, to all Spanish, to Spanglish. No matter what musical preference you “dig,” Quetzal is guaranteed to keep your feet tapping, head bobbing, and hips/nalgas gyrating, side-to-side.
Whether it be folk, salsa, jazz, norteño, tejano, or rock—I even heard some calypso—Quetzal can play it all.
Concomitant with a Quetzal gig, you are introduced to a cultural awakening, musically and spiritually.
For more information on Quetzal and to listen to snippets of their albums “Sing the Real” & “Worksongs,” visit www.quetzalmusic.org or www.vanguardrecords.com. Believe me, this group is worth your time and then some!
Also, if you want a place to take your papi chulo or mami chula, savor jazz, and want a nice romantic dinner at the same place, visit Nighttown, located at 12387 Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights, or check them out at: www.nighttowncleveland.com, or Jim Wadsworth Productions at www.jwpjazz.com .