It hurts when a great band plays past their expiration date. It’s worse when a key figure leaves and the band never regains its lost artistic spark. But when a band is still a mythologically creative beast and just simply can’t “get together much these days,” it evokes special, grito-inducing lament. When Sexto Sol, Saytown’s Latin soul/jazz/funkamaniacs, hit the Luna stage last Saturday they’d be away from the stage for a year. And yet they had me and music/screens/tech Editor Enrique Lopetegui in shrunken amazement at the band’s skill, chemistry, and charisma (with a capacity crowd in attendance and a line out the door).
Regrettably vocalist/pianist Sam Villela said post-show that Sexto’s future remains uncertain. Their next show? “Maybe New Year’s.” Villela has been living in Seattle for two months and is uncertain when he’ll be back. Other members are busy with other projects. Which is a long-way-around to saying that if this was a final show it was a helluva send off (bassist Greg Goodman said the band will play “three or four selected shows” per year). Sexto opened with “Duncan,” a sweet, Latin funk cut showcasing how Sexto Sol deals with time changes (that is, frequently, often, and a whole lot, with the slickness of butter rolling down a sun-baked, cast-iron mountain). Villela seamlessly interpolated Sly & The Family Stone’s “If You Want Me To Stay” as an outro to “You Know I Love You.” Meanwhile, the band gave lessons in combustible improvisation with Eddie Hernandez (lead guitar) and Villela swapping solos the way Oasis swap girlfriends. When Los Barrio Horns (Adrian Ruiz on trumpet and Gabe Pintor on sax) joined for the second set, Sexto’s jams blew wide open in a fury of round-robin one-upmanship. Then percussionist James Moody and drummer Juan Ramos created a thunderclap of funk syncopation on the outro to “Samba.” Its a mastery that comes together over a single rehearsal and throwing back a few beers, Villela said.
“We get together and it always fits somehow,” he said.
Villela described himself as “pretty much gone” from the band’s lineup, adding that Sexto’s future rests on Hernandez, who created the group with Ramos in the early ’90s.
“We’re not moving and shaking like we used to,” Villela said.
Oh, the irony.