Geo-politically speaking, Bohemians are the citizens of Bohemia, a central European region. Culturally, Bohemians are those that share a lifestyle dedicated to literary, artistic or musical pursuits, often viewed as socially unconventional. Los Bohemios, The Bohemians en español, are a Colorado based quintet revitalizing the traditional guitar led Latin American vocal harmony groups of yesteryear with a modern twist. Some of the most popular and successful Latin artists of the Spanish speaking world have been Trio Los Panchos from Mexico, Trio Borinquen from Puerto Rico and Trio Matamoros from Cuba, all specializing in 3-part harmony and exquisite guitar playing often accompanied by additional musicians. Los Bohemios are led by Ricardo Peña, the lead vocalist who plays both the Spanish and requinto guitars, the latter being more high-pitched. Besides being a versatile musician, Ricardo’s other passion is mountaineering. He has reached the summit of over 100 of the highest peaks in Colorado, the US, Mexico, the Andes, Europe and other mountains around the globe. On an expedition to the Andes, Ricardo found personal belongings of Eduardo Strauch, one of the survivors of the historic Andes plane crash of 1972, leading him to be involved in several documentaries about the survivors as well as meeting all of them. Eduardo is the artist who painted the cover art especially for this recording. Ricardo is scheduled to climb Mt. Everest in 2014, accompanied to base camp by Strauch.
Ed Edwards is an outstanding guitarist and lead singer in his own right. He’s originally from Los Angeles and has years of experience playing many types of music including Latin. Amy Biondo may not be Latina by birth, however, her heart beats Latin rhythms as she has been enamored by the music of América Latina all her life and her singing is the ideal addition to the group, reminiscent of the albums of Eydie Gormé with Trio Los Panchos. On bass is Mark Diamond, one of Denver’s most esteemed bassists for more than 30 years, who plays everything from rock to blues to jazz to salsa and more. He is a member of numerous bands including Big Swing Trio, a popular Front Range jazz group. The important percussion chair is held by one of Metro Denver’s best, José Espino, who has mastery of congas, timbales and bongos and brings the required seasoning to the group. A percussionist with a primarily vocal harmony and guitar group cannot overplay, they have to be disciplined, adding the necessary rhythms without interfering, and José has perfected this, adding percussive accents without clashing. Joining Los Bohemios for this recording are trumpeter Gabriel Mervine, rapidly becoming the most in demand horn player in town, and the veteran trombonist Darren Kramer, who leads his own group DKO and plays with Colorado’s oldest salsa band, Conjunto Colores.
For their debut recording, Los Bohemios have chosen some of the finest songs from the great Latin American Songbook, classics from Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba, plus one original tune composed by Ricardo Peña. Not content to simply reproduce the evergreens selected for their debut, Los Bohemios inject freshness to their renditions that will captivate even the most discerning listeners. In particular I was moved by Sin tí (without you), Perdón (forgive me) and Caminemos (let’s walk) because, not only is the harmonizing of Ricardo, Amy and Ed seamless, the musical accompaniment is beyond reproach. Other standout tracks are Regresa (come back), a bi-lingual salsa original by Señor Peña, Una copa más (another drink) featuring Gabriel on muted trumpet and Sin un amor (without love).
A shining example of the group’s creativity is heard in the Cuban song, Guantanamera (the woman from Guantánamo). This is a guajira (country song) which has over 700 recorded renditions and has been performed countless times on stages worldwide after being introduced to non-Cuban audiences by Pete Seeger in 1963 and turned into a smash hit by The Sand Pipers in 1966. Los Bohemios’ version features an improvised double-entendre verse and a smooth solo by Darren on trombone. Another Cuban oldie dating back to the 1920s is Son de la Loma (they’re from the hills), based on an actual incident when the Trio Matamoros were serenading a damsel in Santiago and a girl who was seeing this from the adjoining window asked her mother where the troubadours were from, to which the mother replied, “they’re from the hills!”, voila! A classic was born. This track is a showcase for Gabriel on trumpet, Ed on lead guitar, José on congas and Ricardo on piano.
With the abundance of mediocrity in the current music world, it’s extremely satisfying to have an album that is superb from start to finish. This is an auspicious debut for a group that evokes romance and at times makes you want to get up and dance. ¡Que vivan Los Bohemios!
Arturo Gomez KUVO 89.3 Denver