GROTON — Latin jive was in the air Saturday when Mexican folk band Gil, Cartas & Tuey crossed the border and found their way to the Groton Country Club. The evening featured their own special blend of jazz, blues, flamenco, bossa nova, Mexican folk and gypsy jazz.
“We like to play small towns like Groton because we like the intimacy it affords between ourselves and the audience,” said guitarist Gil Gutierrez whose band members accompanied him on banjo, violin and percussion. “Big city venues aren’t as warm.”
Gil, Cartas & Tuey arrived in Groton while on a tour of the U.S. having just completed shows at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center and in Harrisburg, Penn.
Gutierrez said each member brings their own musical interests to the band which helps enrich their performances.
It was that mixture of sounds that got the attention of Gary Lee, Windchimes Productions impresario who discovered Gil, Cartas & Tuey while on a recent trip to San Miguel, Mexico. Lee gave the group his card and invited them to contact him if they were ever in the Groton area.
Windchimes began its music series last spring when it headlined Eddie From Ohio, a four-man band backed up by folk cellist Gideon Freudmann. Its next show, held in August, featured songstress Cheryl Wheeler which drew a crowd of 200 people.
Always interested in folk music, Lee and Shuman had been looking for an opportunity to restart a folk music concert series they organized as the Mount Wachusett Folk Café when the two had been administrators at Mount Wachusett Community College between 1997 and 2002.
With the opening of the new Gibbet Hill Grille, they felt their chance had come. Thinking the restaurant’s renovated barn would make the perfect venue for their shows, the two men booked it for their first performances. Since then the series has moved to the Groton Country Club, which proved great for Saturday’s performance that opened with local talent Leah Schulman.
Nevertheless, Windchimes’ latest production had no problem finding well over 100 music fans to fill the Country Club’s function room for Saturday’s show, which left nothing but satisfied customers in its wake.
“I was very interested in tonight’s show because of its Latin music which we don’t usually get in this area,” said Westford resident Jean Schott. “Also, the price was right making for a very reasonable evening. I would definitely come again.”
“It’s a really nice venue and they seem to have gotten some really top notch performers to come out to the middle of Massachusetts to play,” said Somerville resident Kirsten Jerch.
“I came to check out Leah and also the Latin musicians,” said former Superintendent of Schools Mary Jennings. “I will definitely be coming back.”
Gil, Cartas & Tuey opened their set with a bouncy instrumental that had people moving to a mix of Latin sounds that led directly into an Argentinean ditty that had overtones of ballad music punctuated with interludes of tango.
While the band was received with enthusiasm by the audience, local talent Leah Schulman, accompanied by her father on piano and violin, almost stole the show.
Schulman performed a number of she composed that, in another time, would not have seemed out of place in a smoke-filled night club of the kind seen in countless film noirs. This is not to say that her songs did not have edge or modern sensibilities. Listeners can judge for themselves when Schulman’s first CD is released later this year.
“Leah has a great voice,” said Jerch. “She’s definitely piqued my interest.”
“I think it’s great to have a venue here in Groton,” said Stuart Shuman. “I think the populace in town will support it.”
On tap for March is songstress Maura O’Connell, Cliff Eberhardt and Gideon Freudmann in April, and Ellis Paul in May. Windchimes hopes to close 2006 with a Zydeco Hulabaloo Dance-a-thon Blowout in December.
“I think folk music is much broader than it used to be in the 1960s,” said Lee. “When you ask most people what they think folk music is they reference groups like Peter, Paul and Mary, but people who are into folk today like to mix it up with blues, jazz and a lot of other sounds.”
Another characteristic of today’s folk scene, said Lee, was that performers now offer more of a complete show with songs intertwined with chatter and comedy rather than coming on and just performing their song lists.
Despite the mass appeal it achieved in the 1950s and 1960s, folk is still primarily a people’s music with its shape and rhythms arising naturally from indigenous cultures. For that reason, folk performers will always find the smaller venue more welcoming than the impersonal mega-stadiums filled with screaming fans.
“I think performing here is going to be nice,” said Gutierrez. “We hope to come back soon.”