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The Brown Sound of L.A. on a Sunday Afternoon

Ray Carrion, Rocky Padilla, Tex Nakamura, and some talented others make it happen in the Land of 1000 Dances

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: June 13, 2012


The Brown Sound of L.A. on a Sunday Afternoon


¡Orale, Mi gente!

Seems the "flu bug" has been circulating around Aztlan…bringing body aches, sneezing, stuffy noses, headaches…and that "let's just stay home tonight" kind of attitude.

I know…it hit my office co-workers & clients last week…hit my lady and kids last week…hit a couple of my homies last week…but damn! It hit me on Friday & Saturday! I stayed home this weekend while good music & vibes happened all over Aztlan….

Sunday, I felt a little better, and the weather was as beautiful as you can imagine in the Land of 1000 Dances. Word of a big car show in Chino Hills came my way…heard it was "da bomb" with lot's of good Gente & entertainment…and I missed it!

My Lady says she feels like getting out of the house for awhile…and I feel like getting a bite to eat and hearing some live music…but where on a Sunday afternoon?

I check my e-mails & the calendar page here on LatinoLA , and I find the answer to my question. Lo and behold, I find that the incomparable RAY CARRION has put together a group of musicians he dubbed "The Brown Sound", performing at MAMA JUANA's in Studio City featuring such artists as Tex Nakamura (formerly of WAR), Papo Rodriguez, Rocky Padilla, keyboardist Steve Campos and others…and only $5.00 to get in, so I'M THERE !

If you haven't been to MAMA JUANA's in Studio City before, you're in for a treat…and a surprise.

Just off the 101 freeway, on the Lankershim offramp, across the freeway from Universal Studios, the outside facade at ground level at 3707 Cahuenga Blvd West leads you to believe you're walking into a shoebox sized beer dive with minimal elbow room, let alone seating and dancing space…but THAT'S the surprise!

That's just the ground level stairway entry…up on the 2nd second story is where you enter a nice and simply stated elegant ballroom, with room for about 100 people to sit comfortably, and a good sized dance floor. Quaint, but not cheap, comfortable, but not cramped. Service and food are pretty good, and the dinners are half price on Sunday afternoons. Bartender knows his business, too…if you know what I mean.

On this Sunday, it was the music that beckoned us…but we just couldn't pass up one of Mama Juana's famous big warm chocolate brownies a la mode, with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, big enough for two… I HIGHLY recommend it!

(My Lady and DJ Sugarbear's Lady had one each!...women, chocolate, and great music! What a party, huh?)

Anyways…opening up the show, Ray Carrion welcomed the small but lively crowd, introducing the band which was comprised of himself at guitar & vocals, Rocky Padilla at bass guitar & vocals, Tex Nakamura at harmonica & vocals, Steve Campos at keyboard & vocals, Adrian Monge at drums & vocals, Chris Trujillo at congas, Jose Papo Rodriguez at percussion, and the surprise guest of the night who stole the show for the evening: Ed Wynn at saxophone and vocals.

All these guys are top notch musicians & artists in their own right, and their separate solos in different songs during the night proved that these were pros at work, having a good time plying their trade, and pleasing the crowd, who got louder after each song.

The music ranged from Latin Soul, to butt slappin' old school funk, to some hard rock & roll, R & B, and some EL CHICANO-WAR-SANTANA favorites with every artist on stage giving it their all for the crowd.

Ray Carrion was masterful on guitar as expected, even playing a solo with his teeth! This guy has got to be one of the best in L.A. at the moment.

Rocky Padilla melted the crowd with his smooth crooning of Chicano Oldies and his now trademark "Crystal Blue Persuasion - All Day Music" medley, throwing in some clean bass guitar solos as well. At one point, he, Tex, and Ray had everybody in the audience singing along to WAR's memorable "Don't let no one get you down".

Tex Nakamura was simply marvelous on harmonica and vocals, harmonizing easily with all vocals on almost every song, making you wonder why WAR ever let him go…

Steve Campos rocked the house with his electrifying organ solos, and bumped it up a notch on vocals with a hot version of Stevie Wonder's "I wish those days" that had us all singing and clapping along.

Adrian Monge, Papo Rodriguez, and Chris Trujillo all laid down the floor thumpin' percussion and solos that drew loud applause from the crowd a couple of times during the night, but the surprise spark of the night had to be saxophonist Ed Wynn, who laid down some KILLER solos and backup vocals that had all the artists on stage taking a step back giving up some admiring & respectful glances and smiles towards Ed as he closed his eyes and blew that sax towards the heavens…and the sounds of all combined was about as perfect as you would want to hear from a contemporary band of music professionals in the Land of 1000 Dances…it was definitely a great moment to be Brown at the moment, as the music was uplifting and well performed.

In between sets, I had a chance to talk with Ray and Tex back stage, and they were just as happy and enthusiastic to be there as the audience.

"You just can't beat the buzz I get on stage when I get the privilege of playing with such hot talent like we have today. It motivates me to go to another level…and I've been told by some greats like Rudy Salas of TIERRA that we motivate each other to go even higher, and the audience always scores on a great performance," Ray happily tells me, "That' a blessing!"

"I had just drove in from San Jose today…and I didn't mind the drive, knowing I was going to play with Ray, Rocky, Steve Campos, and these other guys." Tex Nakamura said, "I'm going to be here next week too… I LOVE playing in L.A. The crowds are great, and they love the music as much as I do…how can you not have a good time here?" he smiled.

Jumping in out of the audience to give up a hot Earth, Wind, and Fire tune was singer Chris Burnett, who fit in with the band like a glove, and had people boogying on the dance floor...

Despite his heavy Japanese accent, Tex Nakamura got a standing ovation when he closed the show with a soulful version of "Sabor A Mi', singing entirely in perfect Spanish!

…and Ray & Rocky just smiled their appreciation as the sang backup vocals ever so sweetly…

Times like these you hate to see end, and the 3-hour show was over before we knew it.

As the loud standing ovations ended, Mama Juana's hot Salsa house DJ took over as a growing crowd began to develop for the weekly salsa lessons and dancing, but not before Ray announced that this band would be back next Sunday, June 17 for another 3 hour show starting at 5 pm… he promised MORE guest artists, great music, and dancing….and next Sunday is Father's Day !

(get the hint?)

…so now, we have something to do and appreciate on Sunday afternoons now that all the playoffs are over…live life and enjoy the music of Aztlan in the Land of 1000 Dances!

Note: for reservations, directions, and information at MAMA JUANA's, one of L.A.'s best kept secrets, call Darrell Alatorre at (818) 505-8636 or log onto www.mamajuanas.com, and tell 'em you heard about it from Frankie Firme & LatinoLA.com

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is th "Al Capone of the microphone & the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul" heard daily around the World on www.eastLArevue.com along with a host of others bringing you the finest music on the World wide web.
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