Rene Lopez @ Nat Geo Records
[Nat Geo; 07/19/2011]
Bringing Boogaloo from the Bronx
It makes sense that Rene Lopez has been performing a lot in Montauk lately. His breezy, energetic style is perfect for making you smile while watching a spectacular sunset. Life is good, right? That’s the feeling you get with Rene’s music, and it was how the crowd felt at his sneak preview performance on Tuesday night, on the rooftop deck of Nat Geo Records.
He started out his shortened set with “Johnny Wants To Be A Matador” a song that splits the differences between boogaloo and rock and roll. You could say that’s what Rene’s all about. His father was a trumpeter with Tito Puente, and Rene followed him into Latin percussion. But his voice is all rock and roll, smooth, deep and friendly almost like a country singer. Hank Williams comes to mind. If you can imagine Hank Williams singing ten times as fast, on top of salsa percussion, you’re halfway to Rene’s sound.
Rene’s debuting his first album, E. L. S. on August 30th, but Rene started performing while still in college studying jazz drumming at the New School. He sang and played percussion in a nineties cult band called The Authority with some of his pals. They had long residencies in New York City and toured the U.S. spreading what one critic called “urban tribal heartbeat.”
Since then, he’s dabbled in acting — his Facebook page shows him in his best Blue Steel face in what looks like a TV cop show — but this upcoming album is about the music. He calls it electro latin soul, because it combines the South Bronx boogaloo of his father’s world with some DJ-centric electronic sounds, all anchored in rock and pop. And the man has got soul.
Rene also sings and plays timbales at the same time. Yes, a lot of musicians sing and play an instrument at the same time. But Rene sings, drums, makes charming small talk with individual members of his audience and also adjusts his wardrobe simultaneously. He bent over and tied his shoelaces in the middle of a song and didn’t miss a breath. Then he was back into the feelgood beats that brought on the smiles again. I wish life were as effortless as this man makes it look. Until that happens, there’s Rene’s music in the meantime.