I found myself thinking how lucky we are to have professional musicians like these in the Ann Arbor area, who are not only dedicated to their art but also driven to entertain us, even if they'll never become rich and famous for doing so. Band leader Paul VornHagen has been around for years as a jazz performer and music teacher, has won three Detroit Music Awards, and demonstrates his skill with sax and flute lines that will sear into your skin or break your heart. Sven Anderson's piano solos float above the dense undercurrent with unexpected trills and turns, confirming the accomplished career he's had with such greats as Earl Klugh and Jimmy Scott. John Barron is also a veteran musician whose compositions on the group's CD, Montuno Salad, prove he's got more to offer than just a cool bass line.
The percussion section really gives this band its entertainment edge. Alberto Nacif, on congas, is the only member of Tumbao who is not a full-time music professional, and that's only because he's a physician in his off time. He was the original DJ for Cuban Fantasy, which he gave up in order to focus more on performing. He's incredibly cute on stage, with a big smile that says, "I'm having the time of my life." Add the talented, wildly rhythmic Javier M. Barrios on timbales to the percussion mix, and you can feel your hips start to shimmy. Just be prepared to sweat through your clothes.
Tumbao is at Goodnite Gracie on two Fridays, January 7 and 21, and at the Firefly Club on Friday, January 28.