Orquesta Akokán is a band that started out as the recording project of three New York-based musicians: Latin jazz pianist/arranger Michael Ekroth, producer Jacob Plasse, and Cuban singer José “Pepito” Gómez. They wanted to recreate the sound of a golden era in Cuban music featuring particularly a dance music called mambo that became popular throughout Latin America and the U.S. in the 1940s and ‘50s. They put together a band in the States but soon realized they needed to go to the source to make the recording sound right, so, somewhat like Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club project, they flew to Havana, hired some additional Cuban musicians and recorded in Areito Studios, the place where many of the original Cuban orchestras of the era were recorded. The result was their self-titled album, Orquesta Akokán, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2019.
They have since toured internationally, recorded a second album, 16 Rayos, again in Havana, and were near the end of a second U.S. tour when they stopped in at KUTX Studio 1-A to give our live Concert Club audience and our Austin listeners a taste of what they would be offering at Antones nightclub the following evening. They started with a rousing mambo that introduces their second album, Siete Rayos, called “Mi Mambo Es De Akokan”. The second song was ”Orquidea” an instrumental featuring a lovely piano solo by Michael Ekroth. Then they finished up with “El Inflador”, again featuring the voice of band vocalist and lyricist Pepito Gómez.
–Michael Crockett, host of Horizontes, Music of Latin America on KUTX 98.9
“Mi Conga es de Akokán”
Jacob Plasse – Tres; Michael Eckroth – Piano; Jose “Pepito” Gomez – Lead Singer; Cesar Lopez – Alto Sax/Flute; Jamil Schery – Tenor Sax; Larry Bustamante – Baritone Sax; Jesus Mato – Trumpte; Reinaldo “Molote” Melina – Trumpet; Heikel Fabian – Trombone; Lino Piquero – Bass; Yolanda “Yuya” Rodriguez – Conga/Bongo; Keisel Jimenez – Timbales
Host: Michael Crocket; Producer: Deidre Gott; Audio Engineers: Jake Perlman, Rene Chavez; Cameras: Michael Minasi, Patricia Lim, Renee Dominguez; Audio Mix/Master: Jake Perlman; Edit: Michael Minasi