by A.J. Wachtel
One of the best things about the New England music scene is it’s depth and diversity. On one end of the spectrum is the Boston Symphony Orchestra and at the other end are the countless number of street performers located everywhere you turn. Planted somewhere in the middle is Infusion Evolution; a five-piece band from Rhode Island with a sound influenced by many styles and cultures.
Noise: You are a groove band influenced by salsa/ flamenco/ cumbia/ and jazz. Have I included them all? And briefly, what are the differences between each of these genres?
Infusion Evolution: To us, good music is the kind of music that moves you and connects people – it reaches out and celebrates our shared humanity. In this light, it is difficult to put a label on our music. We like to say that we play: Infusion Evolution music – since it is difficult to explain all the influences that shape our music. Our music expresses both our musical training and more importantly our living experiences. We are a mixed group of musicians and people – and our music is an extension of that diversity.
Noise: In your bio, it says, “we are the voice of our people.” That sounds like a political activist’s slogan. What is the relationship between your music and the current realities of your culture?
IE: We value the human experience with all of its richness. Therefore, our music seeks to create a bridge between different people, genres, cultures and backgrounds. Our personal experiences bring our music our collective experiences as parents, siblings, workers, thinkers, teachers, musicians, and citizens of the world. In the current cultural climate, we want to celebrate the humanity of all peoples and be inclusive in order to share the greatness that we possess as a whole.
Noise: You don’t do many covers, why not? Are there any current artists that you feel a musical kinship to?
IE: In our live performances we do a few specific covers. We are very selective about our choices because we don’t want to “sound just like” someone else. The few covers we perform are done in the “Infusion Evolution” style – we add our own flavors without disrespecting the original pieces. Lastly, we most certainly have connections with a variety of musicians: Buena Vista Social Club, Jaco Pastorius, Celia Cruz, Miles Davis, Ruben Blades, Eddie Van Halen, Bill Withers – just to name a few. These great musicians transcend specific cultures and genres.
Noise: It’s been written that your sound is similar to Buena Vista Social Club and Gypsy Kings. What are the differences in your band’s music and focus and these two bands?
IE: To be compared to Buena Vista Social Club and the Gypsy Kings is an honor given the fact that these two groups of musicians are incredibly talented. However, we do not want to sound like any other musician. We have incorporated elements of many different types of musical styles and some people will hear those elements, but when they listen long enough they will sense that we are not limiting our selves to a single influence.
Noise: The members of your band are Todd Andreozzi (guitars), Michael Cahill (drums), Jorge Ochoa: Latin Percussion (congas), Kurt RowlinsonB (bass), and David Upegui (trumpet/ vocals). How did you guys meet? Is there a Latino social scene in Rhode Island attached to your genre of music?
IE: Infusion Evolution started as the result of a coincidental meeting while Todd and David were still in college. At first they did not connect given their diverse musical training (Todd focused on rock and David focused on baroque), however, they agreed on trying something unique by combining some Miles Davis with their musical backgrounds. After several months of playing around with ideas, they were joined by a Latin percussionist and subsequently by Kurt, in preparation for their first paid gig at a Jamaican restaurant in Providence. A few years later Jorge took the job as the percussionist, bringing with him years of professional musicianship. Lastly, the band was complete as Mike joined and brought the drumming necessary to complement the sound. Of course, this is the short version of what was a long journey that also included other great musicians that have enriched us over the years, including Jorge Najarro, Carlos Ramos, Ed Cardenas, and Candido Mendoza. Currently we are also collaborating with Yesenia Rubio. As far as the scene in Rhode Island our band enjoys the support of many different people.
Noise: Your songs are in English, Spanish, and Spanglish. What determines the language your compositions are written in? And which is more important in your music, the language and the lyrics or the beat?
IE: Our songs are born under a variety of circumstances. Often times Todd will bring a rough outline of a song’s chord progression and collectively we will work on developing it. At other times David will bring an idea of a melody, or Kurt will have a solid bass line that Jorge and Mike will back up with powerful percussion. Lastly, sometime we start with the percussion and build around that. In other words, our music is the result of a democratic process in which all of our voices are heard and valued.
Noise: Your music has been described as flamenco with an Afro/Cuban flair. What does this mean in English?
IE: This is one of the most challenging aspects of playing original music – how to describe it to others? The Afro/Cuban flair description is the best way to approximate what our music has to offer – an amalgam of styles and cultural wealth.
Noise: What are the positives and negatives of having a big mix of cultures and music influences in your group?
IE: In biology, we know that diversity is richness. When a population has genetic assortment, it has a greater chance to survive environmental stresses. In the same way, we see our mix of cultures as our biggest strength. We are a microcosm for the U.S. – our heritages can be valued and respected as we learn from each other. Moreover, our music enjoys the benefits of bringing together our personal histories and experiences.
Noise: In these tough economic times has the number of fans in your genre remained constant, is it growing, or do you have a struggle finding venues that will have you? Is your geographical range for club dates expanding?
IE: Art is sometimes difficult to sell, but for us the most important aspect has always been to express our ideas and emotions. Also, as we are able to reach other ears, we are looking to play in any place where original music is respected.
Noise: Do you have a message you want to send out to your fans in English AND Spanish?
IE: Anyone who can appreciate a swaying melody, a strong bass line, a shower of percussion – anyone who appreciates the human experience, those are our fans. We thank each and everyone of those people who have shown their support over the years. Gracias por darnos razon para crear nuestra musica.