One can usually imagine that when a vocalist or band makes the quest towards establishing a public platform - whether on stage or as a recording artist, many hard lessons are being learned and perseverance is constantly tested. VenueConnection was birthed by Javier del Aguila and Fara Alvarez in 2002. At the duo's inception, almost no one knew about VenueConnection or noticed its debut release. But through the trials and tribulations, this Madrid-based duo was always willing to invest the time in front of and behind the boards. Orange Light in the Panton Room, an intriguing blend of guitar, sitar and electronica, was met with positive reviews by the few who caught onto this exclusive web release. That was enough confirmation for del Aguila and Alvarez to further establish their identity as artists and to build their confidence in their business affairs.
The next move for VenueConnection was finding a vocalist to inject a warm soulful kick. For their sophomore effort, del Aguila and Alvarez recruited Angeles Dorrio, whose influences included Whitney Houston and Incognito. Strawberry Swan Lake was a hodgepodge of jazz, soul and down tempo grooves utilizing vocals, guitars, sitar and computer programs for the keyboards, bass and beats. Though this 2005 labor of love was exhausting and hard, VenueConnection handled every last detail from engineering to marketing and distribution. In the long run, the band members did not exactly give the thumbs up for their efforts and ended up discouraging their fan base in purchasing the self-released project because they felt the overall results were disappointing.
Since the lessons learned crafting Orange Light and Strawberry Swan Lake, VenueConnection developed a loyal fan base and attracted attention from an independent German record label. It was only appropriate that Phazz-A-delic, the company behind the popular underground soulful lounge group De-Phazz, signed VenueConnection for its next recording. The next two years was spent in the studio composing original material saluting the greatness surrounding their native Madrid. Blending Cuban, Spanish and Indian elements, Madrid Boogie throws plenty of organic funk in the mix along with VenueConnection's laid-back jazz/soul/lounge hybrid. The core group of de Aguila, Alvarez and Dorrio is joined by a three piece horn section, two string players, two keyboardists and U.S. native Karl Frierson, one of De-Phazz's rotating vocalists.
There are several reasons why Madrid Boogie is a vast improvement over Strawberry Swan Lake. Frierson runs the table with his playful and exquisite touches, especially on the title track, "Stand Up" and the dance pop flavored, "Lo Siento." Dorrio contributes some pleasant performances such as the Spanish flavored "Stay at Home" (where she channels some Billie Holliday) and "Walkin' Your Dream," one of several moments that recalls acid jazz stalwarts Incognito and The Brand New Heavies. The horn section that includes Roman Filiu, who has worked with Cuban jazz legends Irakere, provides excellent fills and solos throughout, especially on the all too brief "Bring Back the Funk" and the be-bop vibe of "Mar de la Calmas." The tasty slow jam "MMM Song," with a gorgeous backdrop of vibraharp, glistening guitars, back spinning (a skill utilized in the DJ world) and Dorrio's wordless vocals, should be the ultimate chill out heaven for the clubs.
While the additional musicians undoubtedly provide a much needed boost to Madrid Boogie, founding members del Aguila and Alvarez are still VenueConnection's driving force. del Aguila keeps the grooves in splendid order dropping subtle in the pocket bass guitar lines and a crisp, colorful array of funk, ambient and flamingo beats. Alvarez's soulful impact on sitar connects perfectly with Madrid Boogie's Spanish spiced funk soul and jazz hybrid. The minor stumbling points on Madrid Boogie are two pieces ("Not a Luck," "Goodbye 13th Century") that lose a bit of luster without those adventurous grooves for support. Otherwise, Madrid Boogie ecstatically celebrates VenueConnection's joy of urban music, their culture, and their maturation process in all facets of the industry. Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver