Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Music

Havana Nights – ready to rumba

15 January 2022

The State Theatre Centre takes on a Latin party vibe for Havana Nights and Tiffany Ha finds herself caught up in the rhythm.

Havana Nights – Cuban Young Guns Under the Stars, Adam Hall ·
State Theatre Centre Courtyard, 14 January 2022 ·

The State Theatre Centre Courtyard has been transformed into Fringe World’s own Buena Vista Social Club for a dose of the sounds and colours of the Cuban party capital in Havana Nights.

The festively lit urban venue is buzzing with patrons for opening night on Friday, and they are eager to party, soak up the vibe and take a little soul-vacation to the island paradise.

Adam Hall, one of Perth’s most notable jazz trumpeters, is an entertainer in the truest sense: he is equal parts bandleader, soloist, MC, ringmaster and hypeman. As the leader of the Cuban Young Guns, he exhibits an unwavering enthusiasm that unites bandmates and charms audiences. I particularly enjoyed his joyous, loose trumpet solos and his characterful, versatile vocals.

An image of a man from Havana Nights playing a set of the bongo drums with a microphone towards his face. He is dressed smartly in a white long-sleeve business shirt, black tie, black vest and fedora hat.
The band members impressed with their ability to stay locked to complex rhythms. Photo: Maree Laffan

Cuban guest musician Mohamed Michel (on keys) lends authenticity to the performance, with his effortless ostinato accompaniments and lush, romantic solo passages. Tim Voutas takes over the keys for a couple of songs, adding a ‘Cubop’ (Cuban bebop) flavour to the mix. Bronton Ainsworth, Chris Tarr and Steve Richter are stalwarts of the percussion section while Alistair Peel holds it all down on the bass. Mark Turner (sax and guitar) and Anthony Dodos (trombone) round out the horn section with bravado.

The band members impress with their ability to stay locked in to some of the complex rhythms and abrupt changes in groove. Hall tells us one of Michel’s original compositions was so hard to nail down that it had “given [them] a bunch of grey hairs”.

Of course it wouldn’t be an Adam Hall show (and certainly not a Fringe World show) without audience participation. Hall hooks us into some call-and-response on Pete Rodriquez’s Cuban crossover tune “I Like It Like That” and has us clapping a simplified clave (“for all the gringos in the house”) on the final number. This is preceded by a fun horn processional around the venue, past a bunch of salsa dancers practising and showing off their moves to the side of the stage.

Don’t worry if you haven’t attended any Latin dance classes lately – all you need is an appreciation of rhythm to enjoy this show. You can leave the having a sense of rhythm to the professionals.

Havana Nights continues until Sunday 16 January.

Adam Hall will also perform The French Quarter Festival and The Velvet Playboys Orchestra at The State Underground, plus The Music of Brazil, The Music of Billy Joel and various other shows at Lyric’s Underground.

Pictured top: Adam Hall leads the Cuban Young Guns on a musical tour of Cuba in ‘Havana Nights’. Photo: Maree Laffan

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Author —
Tiffany Ha

Tiffany Ha is a pianist, composer, arranger, music educator and vocalist with a soft spot for anything a cappella. She has degrees in Music (Composition) and Arts (English) from UWA and works as a freelance musician. Her favourite playground equipment is anything that involves climbing and balance: monkey bars, rope towers, trees, human pyramids!

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