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SALSA BRAVA STRIKES A CHORD WITH A LITTLE BIT OF THIS ‘N’ THAT

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An 11-piece band and a garden full of rhythmic people set the scene Sunday evening when Salsa Brava launched the Red Butte Garden summer concert series. Playing to a well-dressed dining crowd, Salsa Brava opened the show with its usual Latin-style, percussion-laden sound.

Band members seemed right at home, speaking to the crowd as if their dedicated followers had rounded up a couple hundred friends for an evening of music in the flowery mountains. Frontman Tony Saint Hilaire chanted the word "salsa" and prompted the audience to respond with "brava" as the band began the first 45-minute set of breakneck tempos of salsa music."We're going to give you a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little of this and a little bit of that," the group promised the audience. The band did just that as the members exhibited their diverse talents and various heritages. Band members hail from Latin America, the Caribbean, North America and elsewhere.

Bursting into songs with energy, the front line of the band danced in unison, prompting spectators to brush up on their tango and samba steps.

What gives this band its strength is that the style of music it plays requires full participation from all the members to give it its tight, intense sound. They more than proved this Sunday night, especially with the band's three-piece horn section and a percussion section that is so polished it seems the members' hands are on automatic pilot.

As the evening progressed, Salsa Brava provided some great unadulterated and authentic ethnic sounds, even doing a couple of covers like Miami Sound Machine's "Shake Your Body Now, Do the Conga" and "Hot, Hot, Hot." These tunes seemed to please the audience, and by the time the sun set and the eastern breeze blew in, nearly every spectator was dancing. Those who weren't couldn't help but tap their feet to the beat.

The "salsa brava" chants continued through the evening, adding to the ethnic ambience. Musical offerings ranged from sentimental ballads to a slew of paeans. Not only are the band's musical capabilities refined, but the members' native tongue, Spanish, is as beautiful as their music. With friendly greetings to Spanish-speaking friends and anyone else with a hint of Latin in his blood, Salsa Brava seemed to strike a chord with the crowd.

The infectious grooves even affected a biker riding down the canyon, prompting him to dance on his pedals. The band rounded out the evening with the tune "Tu es Mi Amor," which the band says it's made a hit in Utah.

"Hay, Carumba!" as Bart Simpson would say. Salsa Brava's well-rounded and lucid performance displayed its ability to appeal to the masses by way of simply playing the music that is literally in the group's blood.