Latin funk. Fusion. Jam band. Multicultural cocktail. The sound of Miami. Afro-Latin-Baby-Makin’-Descarga-Funk. They’re all names that have been used to describe Suenalo, and they’re all on the money. To a point. Because somehow—even the lengthy hyphenated description the band came up with themselves to describe their hard to pin down style—all fall short of the true breadth of what they represent. So is it any time you try to analyze something new, any time you attempt to name freshly blazed trails and still sizzling inroads. If Suenalo’s one of a kind fusion is hard to pinpoint, it’s only because no one’s ever done anything quite like it before.
Funk cruises through the Caribbean picking up Afro sounds from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Reggae meets rock in a head-on collision. Jazz and electro hook up for a sidewalk makeout session. Hip-hop seems to hum from the very pavement, and R&B drifts in on the night wind. Suenalo reaches to far-flung corners and retrieves all these, takes them and mashing them together, marrying them—disparate players melded into a somehow harmonious blend. It defies logic that such diverse influences can find balance at the deft hands of one band. And yet they do.
It’s the result of a 10-year process of compromise and of growth between some of South Florida’s most talented musicians, who come together and share an ideal: that music should move their audience. Suenalo’s roster is stacked, with nine fulltime members boasting chops to rival anyone anywhere. Their lineup is a who’s who of brilliant musicians who have not only made their immovable imprint on Miami’s local music scene, but well beyond. Driving the sound are Carlos Guzman on bass, vocalist/MC Amin De Jesus, vocalist Michelle Forman, sax and flute player Juan Turros (formerly a member of David Lee Roth’s and Maynard Ferguson’s bands), Chad Bernstein (also of Spam Allstars) on trombone and conch shells, drummer Abner Torres (formerly of the Grammy winning Latin act Julio Iglesias), percussionist Allan Ramos and guitarist Eric Escanes.
With three albums under their belt, Suenalo has managed to display to fans a mastery of both the studio and the stage, from their 2003 debut Collages to 2006’s self-titled, star-studded studio effort to 2009’s Live at Transit, which is a prime depiction of the band on a typical night, in their typical prime form. Those notoriously raucous performances have not only taken over South Florida, where they’ve played venues all over the city to consistently packed houses, and dominated local festivals like Calle Ocho, Langerado and Carnival on the Mile, but also extended their reach beyond, to cities like New York, New Orleans, North Carolina and Chicago.
And Suenalo shows no signs of slowing down. On the contrary, they’ve only just truly hit their stride, gelling with what they feel is the most complete lineup ever to comprise this seminal band, and with a full slate ahead in their unyielding, unwavering dedication to gigging and a fourth album in the works.