Zak Astor & his Latin Music Power: On July 1st, 2009, Zak Astor and his Latin Music Power made their Los Angeles debut at the popular Mama Juana's Nightclub in Studio City. Pianist/bandleader Zak Astor is a 16-year old student at the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts. His piano training started at the age of four, although his music appreciation was inherited at birth from his Dominican and Puerto Rican parents. Astor made his pro debut as a pianist with the group L.A. Picante when he was 13 years old. In recent years, he has performed with many of the local salsa bands, such as Johnny Polanco & Conjunto Amistad, Walter Segundo, Bobby Rodríguez, Ángel Lebrón & Sabor Latino, and Al González, among others.
Backstage at Mama Juana's, I spoke with the young bandleader and asked him about his band. "We have been together now for about six months," he said. "Half of the musicians in the band are from my high school, while the rest are local, veteran salsa players. Our repertoire is made of salsa covers from the catalogs of Eddie Palmieri, Héctor Lavoe, and Ray Barretto, among others." When I asked him what influenced him to play salsa, he stated: "My parents and grandparents have been listening to the stuff since I was a baby. They love El Gran Combo, Eddie Palmieri, and Sonora Ponceña." Astor and his posse of teenagers and veteran players took to the stage of Mama Juana's, and by the second song, butterflies had settled down and everything started coming together pretty well. By the third song, the crowd started enjoying the music and the dance floor filled up. The band is comprised of Zak Astor (bandlea&r/piano), Stephen Szabadi, Temo Mauricio and Otro Granillo (trombones), Ivan Pyzow and Tyrie Levels (trumpets), Steven Pasillas and Oscar Bosque (vocals), Don Yi (bass), Louis Barragán (bongó), Abel Canel (timbal), and Marcos Concreras (congas).
Around town: Montuno Productions presents La Sonora Ponceña, directly from Puerto Rico, on Saturday, August 15th, at the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles. For ticket information, call (213)-596-7670.
The 4th Annual Festival y Carnaval...