I seldom tackle new genres, so I was a little apprehensive about approaching today’s band. We set up an interview with Portland-based group Paul D’Alessio to find out more about this style of music. I started by bingeing YouTube videos to get a little more familiar with what his band was doing in a concert setting.
When I got home, I asked him if he was pronouncing the name of the genre correctly as son.
Dalessio: Yes, my son Cubano.
Q: Honestly, I didn’t know that Spanish had no effect on how I enjoy your band’s music.
Dalessio: Yeah (laughter), the music we play has a lot of life. It’s classic Son Cubano music, a really great body of work, a niche and specialized genre of music that even Cuban youth don’t learn much today. That’s why when I first heard it, I thought it was a great song that I want everyone to know and listen to. And like you said, you don’t even need to understand Spanish to appreciate the vibrancy of the music.
Q: One of the videos I saw really caught my attention when you guys broke into one of my favorite Sandpipers songs, “Guantanamera.” When you started doing it, I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I know this!
Q: So you’re coming to One Longfellow?
Q: Have you performed in the past?
Dalessio: Well, I think I’ve had at least three or four new years.
Q: Are you celebrating the new year?
Dalessio: Yeah we wake up after midnight.
Q: I assume you’re removing the chairs so that everyone in there can move and groove to their heart’s content.
Dalessio: Oh yeah, the dance floor is pretty open, but there’s also seating, and a balcony. we like the place very much.
Q: Your website has a list of five players: you, Mark Chilemi, Lenny Hatch, Eric Winter and Duane Edwards.
Dalessio: Yeah we’re still here except for Eric. New players are also playing along.
Q: How long have you been doing this? Are you the founder of the group?
Dalessio: I mean, the band started in 2007, so it’s been about 15 years.
Q: That’s good in the long run. Busy when it comes to performance?
Dalessio: Yes, but it’s mostly summer and it’s going down after October.
Q: How far are you from Maine on your tour?
Dalessio: Well, we played down a bit in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but that’s it so far.
Q: When I saw your video performance, I wondered if you were just giving a little history of the genre and playing some music.
Dalessio: It depends on the program. At concerts and schools, sometimes we also do school and go deep into (history), but if the particular show is something like a dance or a party or a wedding, we don’t. .
Q: Do you write new songs or just draw from cultural material?
Dalessio: It’s based on classical music, so it’s hard to rehearse with everyone. But we are working on new materials. Actually, there are many old songs.
Q: How do you choose which songs to cover?
Dalessio: Well, we choose songs that are really attractive.
Q: What time does the show at One Longfellow Square start if we go until midnight?
Dalessio: I remember it being around 9:00 to 12:30.
Q: I think it’s a good result for your band.
Dalessio: (laughs) Yes.
Q: What is the audience for this music here in Maine? We are not the center of Cuban music here.
Dalessio: Yeah, that’s a fair assessment, but we have a small but dedicated audience.
Q: Out of curiosity, where?
Dalessio: Southern coastal areas, coastal areas are generally better for us.
Q: Do you often go to Cuba?
Dalessio: No, I’ve only been there twice. Last time she was in 2013. The first time she went was in 2004 and she didn’t know what to expect.
Q: And did you study music while there?
Dalessio: Yes, I started taking lessons on my first trip to learn the traditional Cuban instrument, the Tres Cubano, a three-string two-string guitar. I also started collecting songs and lyrics and went home and built my own tres with a 3/4 size guitar. I started stringing and tuning like Torres and learning the songs I had collected.
Q: Paul, is there anything you would like to tell people reading this about the New Year’s Eve show at One Longfellow Square?
Dalessio: Well, let’s see — this is a standard New Year’s celebration. Ring in the new year with energetic and exciting Cuban classical music. There’s also dancing and drinking, and it’s always a good time at One Longfellow.
2018 Keeping the Blues Alive award winner Lucky Clark has been writing about great music and the people who make it for over 50 years.he can be reached at [email protected] If you have any questions, comments or suggestions.
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