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POP Montreal review: Joe Bataan @ La Sala Rossa

Posted by Theo / September 25, 2011

20110926_JoeBataan.jpg Call it Salsoul, Latin soul, Afrofilipino funk - whatever; Joe Bataan's music doesn't need a fancy title to draw a crowd (looking in your direction, dubstep). This was no more apparent than at POP Montreal's sold-out showcase for the artist last night.

At his prime in the 60s and 70s, Bataan's sound was the product of a youth spent on the streets of Spanish Harlem, surrounded by popular Cuban, Puerto Rican, and African American music. A fusion of R&B, doo-wop and Latin big band, Bataan added an infectious break beat to create a novel groove that had a knack for getting people up and dancing.

There was nary a folded arm or slouched shoulder in sight last night at La Sala Rossa, as Bataan, his wife and a few ringers from Montreal's Mantecoso lit up the room with a hot set. The exuberantly dancing and clapping crowd was game for whatever Bataan at them. This despite the almost certain unfamiliarity they had with much of his music (he is somewhat of a forgotten artist who, due to label disputes, never achieved the recognition he deserved). With a solid brass section, vintage P-funk synth sounds and a tight rhythm section, Bataan and company stormed through numbers that, when originally released, would end up influencing a number of genres including disco and hip-hop.

The only lull in the set took place when Bataan told the story of how, after a diabetic attack 15 years ago, he was near death, only to be saved by a voice telling him that he still had more to accomplish and offer in life. By the end of the story, the crowd had hushed to a whisper, their respect for the artist's history apparent. Bataan then launched into a stirring version of the Lord's Prayer, his energy on stage and his fine weathered warble proof that he, indeed, had more to give.


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