Arts Listings

Bobi Cespedes, John Santos Bring in New Year at Anna’s

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday December 29, 2006

Cuban singer extraordinaire Bobi Cespedes and her trio will be joined by Bay Area Latin music luminary John Santos on percussion for two shows and dinner, 7 and 10 p.m. New Year’s Eve at Anna’s Jazz Island on Allston right off Shattuck. Validated parking at Allston Way Parking across Shattuck next to Ross. 

“John produced three of Bobi’s records,” said club founder Anna De Leon, “But I don’t think they’ve ever performed together live before. She was always working with Conjunto Cespedes, which she co-founded, and John was with his Machete Ensemble, or recording or working with stars like Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri or Cachao.” 

Conjunto Cespedes, the 12-piece group Cespedes cofounded in the ‘80s, disbanded a couple of years back; Santos, Grammy-nominated several times, just put Machete Ensemble to rest a month or so ago after 21 years, citing the difficulties of keeping a big band well-rehearsed and booked, as well as the current official cultural scene, which he characterized as a war on the arts. 

The two former big band leaders can each boast a wealth of experience. Bobi Cespedes has garnered a higher profile in recent years with Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum and the Bembe’ Orisha Orisha bands, but her career as a Yoruba-Lucumi priestess is four decades long, and has taken her all over the world, delivering lectures and performing rituals. Conjunto Cespedes was a leader in combining traditional Afro-Cuban music and poetry with modern horn arrangements. 

John Santos has also pioneered in the fusion of newer and more time-honored Latin and Jazz forms in music and dance, leading his Machete Ensemble and other groups in memorable shows, such as Cuban bassist, the very original Cachao, in his East Bay appearance in the 90s. 

Anna’s Jazz Island, which opened a year ago last summer, is an improved edition of the previous Anna’s on University—improved in terms of size (almost twice as big), acoustics, a full bar and proximity to BART. 

“The old place was sold out every weekend,” De Leon said, “but I wanted to have a room where I could book groups of greater stature, groups with bigger followings; where I could have a grand piano, and where I could have as much truly acoustic music as possible. Normally, we don’t mic the piano, drums or horns, just the bass, singers and instruments like a flute. And I love it! We use a Bose system, not conventional speakers. And I like being less than a block from BART.” 


Coming up at  

Anna’s Jazz Island  


Saturday, Jan 6: Babatunde Lea and his band “on Three Kings’ Day!”  


Saturday, Jan. 13: Lloyd Gregory (familiar from The Fifth Amendment). 


Friday, Jan. 19: Pamela Rose with a group including a Hammond B-3 as well as Danny Caron on guitar, “Charles Brown’s old bandleader.” 


Friday, Jan. 26: The polished husband and wife team, singer Bobbe Norris and pianist Larry Dunlap. 


2120 Allston Way. 841-5299.