All Photos by Mario Ruben Carrion for Afro-Latino Festival NYC
As Daymé Arocena concluded her first show ever in New York City, the room was lit with smiles. She left it all on stage, leaving the rest of us to wonder how she’s going to do that five more times in the next couple days.
For being heralded as Afro-Cuban jazz’s big savior, Daymé sure is humble. When she took the stage at Subrosa last night, she greeted the intimate crowd as if we were in a living room. She made us feel welcomed and warm, telling jokes in Spanish as the majority of the crowd encouraged her to do. Daymé is just 22 years old, and has the enthusiasm to match it. As with any artist, she was clearly jubilant at the concept of performing in NYC for the very first time.
The Afro-Latino Festival NYC, which runs this year from July 8-10, brought Daymé to New York City at the very same time President Obama made a historical visit to Cuba. While we embrace the new-found positive relationship with Cuba, it made all the sense in the world to celebrate in this fashion.
Arocena’s Nueva Era came out last year and ended up on the year-end lists of many, including NPR, for its unique, modern take on Afro-Cuban jazz styles. The backing band, comprised of Jorge Luis Lagarza Perez (piano), Rafael Aldama Chiroles (bass), Raul Herrera Martínez (drums), was top-notch, with Martínez wowing the audience multiple times, thoroughly, with his skills. Pianist Perez was in spectacular for himself, taking the improvisational nooks of the performance and creating some really interesting space out of them. While we’re at it, Chiroles delicate 6-string bass lines played out like a chilled-out Thundercat.
As the band went through the set, Daymé truly performed at an all-star level. It didn’t seem unreasonable to imagine her on a stage like the Beacon Theatre, bringing the same electrifying energy to a room that might be big enough to contain her. Subrosa, while providing a special and intimate setting, won’t be able to contain her for long. She is destined for bigger and better, guaranteed. As for me, I can’t wait to watch Daymé Arocena grow as a person and artist over the years, because the sky’s the limit for her.