Duarte Brings Latin Fusion to Life
at Café Capoeira

by Juliana Birnbaum

Bringing the rhythms of Brazil to meet flamenco guitar and Latin jazz, Tom Duarte and his band Diamante played a crowded Café Capoeira last Friday night in Berkeley.  The evening broke new ground in several ways: as a creative expression of the fusion of several musical styles, as a new adventure of a group of talented instrumentalists, and as a part of establishing Café Capoeira as an up-and-coming venue for Latin music.

In the true sense of the phrase “Latin fusion,” Duarte's groove expressed the diversity and range of Latin-influenced sound.  The group melds samba beats with masterful Spanish guitar styles within songs that venture into the improvisational solos of jazz and psychedelic rock.  The band, made up of bass, guitars, a drum set and hand percussion, is a new project led by Duarte on lead acoustic and electric guitar.  His style finds its roots in traditional Latin music, which he has been practicing since the ‘80s. The band's set Friday included pieces by Chick Corea, Ray Obiedo and original compostions. The high level of musicianship was obvious and the sound energetic and tight—especially considering that it was only the second public appearance of the band.

Tom Duarte's new CD release, Diamante, is described as “a Latin-centric outing that focuses on danceable Brazilian grooves and fiery solo Flamenco pieces.” In the past Duarte has toured with keyboardist Merl Saunders and recorded with Gregg Rolie (Santana/Journey keyboardist/vocalist).  He is headed to Brazil later this month, and plans to play in Europe this year as well.

“I was really happy with the turnout,” Duarte commented, “especially since the band is new and the venue is still being established.”

Café Capoeira, which is a well-known Capoeira school, café and art gallery in downtown Berkeley, is starting to include more live Latin shows at night. With its brightly painted walls the café has a warm, community feeling, though the dance floor is somewhat hidden behind the stage in the capoeira practice space.

Both the café and the band show great promise for those interested in innovative Latin music and a fun, relaxed vibe.