In the beginning, there was “Cafe Salsa”....

In the worldwide salsa scene today, London based band Dorance Lorza & Sexteto Cafe are well known and respected for keeping alive the classic vibraphone sound of the 1960s and 1970s. They have released four albums in total since their debut “Cafe Salsa” in 1996 and their tracks are featured on top salsa compilations. They play live across Europe and guested at the famous collectors stage at La Feria De Cali in Colombia in 2013.

The Sexteto Cafe story began almost 20 years ago in Colombia when Dorance decided to record a small vibes led salsa project. He was already a much respected composer, arranger, producer and session musician who had worked with Colombia’s finest artists including Los Niches, Los Del Caney, Los Titanes, Los Nemus Del Pacifico, Santiago Ceron, La Octava Dimension, Kike Harvey, Cali Aleman and Fruko y su Orquesta to name a few.

In 1993-94, he put together a small band of musician friends and colleagues and began recording the project that would become Sexteto Cafe. Taking their inspiration from the classic small Latin combos of the past such as Joe Cuba Sextet, New Swing Sextet, Gilberto Sextet and Cal Tjader Quintet, they recorded an album of original material plus new arrangement of classic songs by Dorance. The album was never released in Colombia and stayed shelved for two years while Dorance continued gigging and recording with a number of other bands.

In 1995, Dorance came to Europe with a Colombian folkloric band and they played some gigs in London. He loved the city and it’s vibrant Latin music scene and in 1996, he decided to stay for good. Very quickly, he was playing bass, tres or vibes with many of London’s top salsa and Latin bands as well as writing arrangements for them. His ambition though was to release the Sexteto Cafe album.

That dream came true in 1996 when a small London independent label called PCP Records agreed to release “Cafe Salsa” and the first Dorance Lorza & Sexteto Cafe recordings finally came out. The band also formed as a live unit and began gigging around the UK salsa scene. They were at the forefront of the vibraphone salsa revival of the 1990s and have became the top band in Europe for that genre.

“Cafe Salsa” sold steadily over the years and was repressed a couple of times. In recent years, it has totally gone out of print. Dorance decided it was time to re-release the album to show new fans of Sexteto Cafe where it all began two decades ago. The band has changed personnel many times since these first recordings and two members have sadly passed away (timbalero Alex Saria and bassist Dumer Rendon), so this is a unique snapshot of the early days of Sexteto Cafe.

As the band celebrates it’s 15th anniversary, it’s good to look back and see where it all started and how their sound and style has developed over the years. “Cafe Salsa” was one of the first salsa-con-vibes releases in Europe and at the forefront of the genre’s revival worldwide in the 1990s. The beginning of the story for Dorance Lorza & Sexteto Cafe which still continues today and hopefully will do so for many more years to come.

Lubi Jovanovic aka DJ Lubi

UK salsa DJ/promoter/music journalist www.djlubi.com

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