The last live event I went to in LA before leaving for Mexico was called Vibras Latinas, at the Peppermint Club, on the border between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. I have written about the Peppermint before – a small-medium sized club oriented toward a high spending, well-dressed crowd not fazed by booths with $100 and up bottle service fees and otherwise standing room in front of the stage. The staff is very friendly and very professional and they are beginning to bring in a wide range of talent and genres. Which is why I could not resist seeing Grammy nominee Alih Jey and the Sin Color band at the club, both friends and both tremendous talents.
I especially wanted to see these two because Jey had just released a new album, Soy de Peña and a new song “Mi Debilidad” from the album, both of which I love. Opera-trained Crisia Regalado, co-founder of Sin Color, was appearing with her reconfigured band, which I had not yet seen. I was very happy I took a break from packing to go.
Crisia Relagada was as good as ever with her new streamlined 3-piece band (including her on vocals and keys), let loose with the operatic choruses she is famous for and the soaring melodic verses that she uses to pull audience deeper into the meaning of the songs. Her body swayed and her hands danced as her voice skipped from one soprano cloud to another. Her decorated 5-inch bright blue boots stepped lightly in time as she moved from the microphone to the keyboard and back again. As usual, Sin Color took your breath away and made you smile at the same time.
Part of Chrisia’s geniusis, of course, her voice. Trained as an opera singer, she can use her vocal gifts in ranges and with a precision that surpasses even some of the best and most talented singers. But she goes beyond that by delivering the powerful emotional drama associated with opera – body language, facial expression, visible agony and ecstasy – encased in music that combines bolero, cumbia, rock, pop and something unique that I call ritmo del corazon – rhythm of the heart.
The curtain came down (yes, the Peppermint has an actual curtain) and rose again to reveal Alih Jey, looking as stunningly beautiful as always and brimming with energy like a firecracker ready to explode. And she did, with a high-powered, handclap-driven “Los Olivos” that kicked the night into an even higher gear and then turned it into pure musical magic – which describes Jey perfectly.
I say that because she is and always has been a musical magician and she can do just about anything. The daughter and granddaughter of one of the most revered musical families in the
Dominican Republic, Jey began singing in harmony at the age of three with her parents and two sisters. At 14 she wrote “It’s Ok,” which led to a record deal with Universal Music Latino, which landed her on the Billboard Top 40 charts. She was the first Dominican nominated for a Latin Grammy in the category of Best Rock Solo Vocal Album. She collaborates widely with other bands, including with the alt Latino folk band Cuñao who recorded Soy del Peña. Bassist Josel Cruz of Cuñao, played with her at the Peppermint, along with her friend, percussionist Issac Rodriguez.
Those are just some of the reasons I took time off from packing our studio for the move to Mexico to spend the evening at the Peppermint. Jey is so good, so talented, and so inspirational, that any chance to see her live is worth whatever it takes. The musical magic spells she wove on stage and her conversation with the audience included a healthy dose of the new album, Soy de Peña (I am from Peña, her family name – a word that means “a gathering of artists to showcase their work” and also “mountain”), so I got double the pleasure.
Part of Jey’s magic, and of the magic at the Peppermint is “de Pena” – her reverence for family. She shared that family with the audience through stories of and songs by her father and grandfather. Jey gave us a priceless look into a society and a family that we have come to love for their music but know little of historically (at least I didn’t). Some of the songs were a tribute to her father Aníbal De Peña, who to this day remains an icon in Dominican musical history.
Jey’s voice ran through jazzy, heartbreak, seductive, ethereal and just plain haunting – a range few can attempt, much less succeed at, especially at the level she performs. The highlight of the evening for me was the hit single from the album, “Mi Debilidad”. Joined onstage by the superb young guitarist David Aquino (and a great percussionist and keyboard player) Jey enveloped the room with one, single, elongated note that prepared us for power and pain to come in the song. There is truly no one like Alih Jey.
As I left the Peppermint early to return to packing (I missed Leyo, Helen Ochoa and Restrepo) I thought about the depth of talent in LA, especially in the Latin Alternative and Latino fusion communities. I will still be reviewing their albums and videos while I cover an equally vibrant music scene in Guadalajara. And I plan a two-month tour of LA in November. Maybe Alih Jey or Sin Color will be playing.
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