Imagine if James Brown had come to play San Antonio but discovered at the last minute that the J.B.’s had melted on the drive down, and rushing to fill in, he tapped the West Side Horns (dude, I would’ve so loved to see that). That’s almost exactly what happened to nine-time Grammy-winning Latin jazz/salsa legend Eddie Palmieri. His orchestra, La Perfecta 2, was stranded on the East Coast when Hurricane Irene swept the seaboard. Palmieri had a dilemma: since he rarely plays with anyone but his orchestra, should he cancel the show or find a local orchestra? He chose the latter, and Henry Brun & his Latin Playerz (who were set to open anyway) got the dream gig of a lifetime. To say they rose to the occasion, at this point, would be offensive — this is a more than capable band of professional musicians who have been setting the Afro-Cuban standard for San Antonio for years, and this opportunity only confirmed how talented they are.
After an opening set on their own (a little too long, perhaps, given the fact that it was 105 degrees), complete with a rousing cha-cha version of Carole King’s “It’s Too late” sung by Judy Deleón, the Playerz — who had less than a day to write the arrangements — jammed with the maestro through long versions of “Slowvisor,” Tito Puente’s “Picadillo,” “Chocolate Ice Cream,” and “La libertad lógica,” and the crowd of roughly 1,000 went wild.
Remember these guys: Henry Brun on timbales; Travis Davis on piano; Glenn Rexach on bass; Mike Koenning on drums; René González on congas; Bill King and Gabriel Pintor on sax, and Carlos Elizondo and Gabriel Ruiz on trumpet. They’re the Latin Playerz, they’re from San Antonio, and they kick ass. It’s official now.