Latin Lovers, Listen Up
Classically trained pianist Marlysse Simmons, the lovely and talented Washington native whose steady keyboard playing anchors local salsa kings Bio Ritmo, is working hard to make sure Richmonders get their share of Latin American-inspired music.
Bio Ritmo not only plays regularly at Capital Ale House, but Simmons, Greg Darden and Rei Alvarez, the lead singer from Bio Ritmo, also are moving people with DJ sets at Ipanema CafAc on Grace Street — spinning a blend of mostly '70s Brazilian music with some funk thrown in, the first Thursday of every month.
On March 5, they'll include local Capoeira group Resistencia, which performs music with traditional Brazilian instruments such as berimbau, a percussive musical bow, and pandeiro, a tunable tambourine.
“They've been around a couple years in Richmond and are known for their martial arts-inspired dancing,” Simmons says of Resistencia. “But they won't be dancing at Ipanema. I've invited them to sing. It's like a call-and-response style.”
Also, Simmons has a side group, the Brazilian music quartet Os Magrelos, which will play at the Moroccan restaurant Cous Cous on Thursday, March 26. This instrumental group performs arranged pieces with some improvising.
“I like to call it samba rock,” she says. “It's definitely danceable like Bio Ritmo but not as syncopated as salsa — more on the downbeat … Basically a hard-hitting, very samba-influenced, kind-of-jazz, kind-of-not set.”
The group also features locals Cameron Ralston on bass, Matt Wyatt on drums, Toby Whitaker, Ritmo's trombonist, and Alvarez, or DJ Rattan as he's also known, who sometimes spins while the band is performing.
But that's not all, believe it or not. Simmons has another side project likely to be unveiled in April featuring herself and Alvarez, tentatively called Miramar. Using mostly piano and vocals, the duo will tackle classic Latin standard boleros — for those not familiar, a century-old, slower, romantic style famous across Latin America.
“Sad old love songs from way back,” Simmons says.
With all that music in her life, the woman's feet must be tapping even when she sleeps.
1. Van Morrison finally performing “Sweet Thing” (Astral Weeks live CD/DVD).
2. Dengue Fever on April 18 at Plaza Bowl on the South Side.
3. The delightfully lowbrow HBO series, “Eastbound and Down.”