Eugene Weekly : Music : 2.19.09

A Triumphant Return

Though Afro Cuban All Stars band leader Juan de Marcos Gonzalez is probably more well-known for his work with the Buena Vista Social Club project, the All Stars (who’ve been nominated for two Grammys) actually enjoyed quite a bit of fame for A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, a 1997 album recorded at the Buena Vista Social Club sessions. And if you check out the roster for both projects, you’ll likely notice some overlap; a particularly notable member of both groups, Ibrahim Ferrer, was a well-known Cuban musician who also collaborated with popular artists like the Gorillaz before his death in 2005. And that’s not counting the whole mess of other Cuban music legends who have lent their skills to both bands. The Afro Cuban All Stars’ pan-Cuban sound is a virtual buffet of Latin and Cuban musical styles from salsa to bolero to danzon. But while the All Stars enjoyed a robust heydey in America throughout the ‘90s, the 2001 travel ban made touring difficult, and the band hasn’t been back stateside since 2003. To get the All Stars, whose rotating cast of members spans four generations, into the U.S., Juan de Marcos tapped a group of ex-pat Cuban musicians with citizenship in different, U.S.-sanctioned countries to make this tour possible. The roster includes pianist Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera; drummer Calixto Oviedo; trumpeters Yaure Muniz, Igort Rivas and Miguel Valdes; and trombonist Alberto “Molote” Martinez. The Afro Cuban All Stars play at 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 20, at the Hult Center. $18-$36 — Sara Brickner

Murder by Johnny

For the last week, every time I’ve thought about Murder By Death, I’ve heard Johnny Cash in my mind. It’s like my mental record player skips, or the multi-disc changer lands on the wrong album: I just get Cash. Blame it on MBD singer Adam Turla, whose deep-voiced charms are something like a more theatrical Johnny, but something all his own, too. Last year, Murder By Death released its fourth full-length, Red of Tooth and Claw, a concept album which pairs with the band’s 2003 Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them? On their current tour, the quartet — joined by former keyboardist Vincent Edwards — is playing both records in thematic order; Red, which concerns the story’s protagonist’s younger years, comes first. “By the light of the moon / I’m coming home,” Turla growls as the story begins, on “Coming Home,” which sweeps from an atmospheric opening into the grasp of Sarah Balliet’s cello and Dagan Thorgerson’s drums, which twine and separate propulsively. My first thought about Murder By Death was that Red sounded like DeVotchKa gone rockabilly, and I still believe that, but it’s an insufficient description. A punk underpinning, a country past, dramatic tendencies and passionate impulses twist through Red; you can hunt out the story in the lyrics or just revel in the occasional Waitsian inclinations — and the certainty that the dusty-road, dank-tavern, bad-intention-drenched enthusiasm of Murder By Death will translate even better to the stage than to a slim slice of plastic (or a file on your computer). Murder By Death, The Builders and the Butchers and Fake Problems play at 8 pm Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the WOW Hall. $12. — Molly Templeton


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