On a night when the Super Seven numbered as many as a dozen, it was the striking musicianship that made this pan-Latino effort much more than a side project for established Spanish-lingo stars. The music that fills their two Columbia/Legacy discs makes for an inviting marriage of Tex-Mex, Cuban and South American tunes, one that works remarkably well in this loose and free-spirited presentation.
Los Lobos front men and guitarists Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo ostensibly lead this unit, though the lead vocals are shared among Raul Malo of the late Mavericks and Mexican singers Rick Trevino and Ruben Ramos. Under-rehearsed, and with sheet music on a couple of stands, highlights came during solo excursions from the leaders and the boisterous army of four percussionists.
Rosas, in particular, was the beacon on Wednesday, wrapping his piquant voice around “El Pescador” and bending blues licks into the acoustic “Campesino,” which he dedicated to Cesar Chavez. When Malo took over, the band turned mellow and suave — Bryan Ferry with a Latin tinge? — and for Ramos, who personifies suave in shades, double-breasted suit and T-shirt, they became a border music machine.
Those percussionists, however, provide not only the glue but the flint from which sparks fly. The beat-crazy “Calle Dieciseis” came early on, but the memory of Ramos and Hidalgo swapping vocals lingered deep into the night as the unit’s most triumphant example of teamwork.
New disc “Canto” extends the reach of Los Super Seven to Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Cuba, though clearly Mexican music has the strongest hold on their collective heart. The musicians’ assimilation of the various styles makes for unique twists on cumbia and Mexican country that just won’t be heard anywhere else.
Trevino opened the show with selections from his first “roots” disc, being released May 9 by Vanguard. After two gigs at the South by Southwest fest in Austin, Texas, Super Seven makes its final perf Tuesday at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom.