"The whole room was up doing the Hokey Pokey." That's how Catherine Cisneros, co-music director of the Urban-15 Group, described not a kindergarten classroom, but last year's Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball hosted by the Urban-15 Group. Anyone who has attended a local parade where the dance group has performed knows Urban-15's non-stop, fun-loving attitude is unmatched. But when the party dancers team up with the Grammy Award-winning party band, Brave Combo, the 2003 Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball festivities reach a whole new level on Saturday, March 1 at La Villita Assembly Hall.

"It's an explosion when we get all these people together," says Cisneros, warning that this event is not for those who prefer to observe from the sidelines. "The thing that makes this event unique is we're masters at getting a crowd dancing. Look at Brave Combo. They're masters at getting a crowd dancing." The group's horn- and accordion- based performance will educate audiences in world dance music with influences from polka, ska, merengue, zydeco, reggae, rock, and jazz. "They mix styles. They break genres," Cisneros adds.

If the dancers and music don't tap into the inner child, the Carmen Miranda costume contest open to all genders is sure to incite giggles. The event is an annual fundraiser Urban-15 is dependent on this year as part of a capital campaign. After leaving their last studio and moving into the temporary space at 1918 W. Houston, the group now has its sights set on acquiring a permanent space in the South Sides and ultimately creating a South Side Cultural Arts Center.

"We're going to turn the church into a theater and rehearsal space with classrooms." Cisneros comments on the space, located at 2500 S. Presa. The deal, however, isn't sealed until a down payment is delivered. "This fundraiser will help make that happen."

La Villita Assembly Hall has seen its share of fiestas, but Saturday's may prove to be one to remember. "It's pretty much a dance marathon." If all works out for the Urban-15 Group and they land a new home, they will have a lot to dance about. Call 736-1500 for more information.


How many jazz musicians does it take to change a light bulb?

Who the hell knows. But there should be more than enough to cover just about any task Saturday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1 at Jazzeria II.

Last year's Jazzeria at Carmen's de la Calle Cafe, 720 E. Mistletoe, was a resounding success. An indoor jazz festival in an intimate setting, it featured 12 hours of music by some of the best players in the area. The comment most often heard among exultant audience members was: "They should make this a regular thing." So this year, Thrasher and Ben Donnelly Productions are answering the call and upping the ante to two days - noon to midnight - of non-stop jazz. It's a community affair, with between 70 and 100 performers splitting proceeds from the door. But the unusual feat of getting so many of the area's finest players together in one place, plus attentive and appreciative audiences, along with chef Paula Sullivan's tapas and homemade sangria, are attracting new participants and bringing last year's players back for more. Five dollars will get you in for a single set; $15 will buy a one-day pass; and $25 lets you come and go as you please both days.

Jazzeria II will feature the swinging violin of Sebastian Campesi, backed by Small World; Footprints, with Joan Carroll's lovely, perfectly pitched vocals; Sarabande's marimba-based jazz; the Jim Butler Quartet; Joe Piscatelle's over-the-top piano work with the Regency Jazz Band; drummer Chuck Glave's Trio, featuring virtuoso saxophonist Rob Hardt; the Ron Wilkins Quartet; 3rd Trio from the Sun, with pianist Andy Langham; bassist/composer Joël Dilley; the Bett Butler Quartet; Olivia Revueltas; Henri Brun and the Latin Players; and the Frustrated Orchestra. San Antonio's most renowned session players and side people will make up the Carmen's de la Calle All-Stars, and on Saturday night, John Magaldi's Prime Time Big Band will bring another truckload of players to the party. On Sunday, Carmen's All-Star Big Band, made up of whomever's still standing, will close the festival with a big jam blowout.

It's a great opportunity to check out the players who are carrying on San Antonio's rich tradition of jazz, eclectic, and traditional. For a copy of the schedule, e-mail [email protected], or call Carmen's at 737-8272. •


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