Conjunto Chappottin Y Sus Estrellas – Skirball

There is the golden hour when the day gives way to the night. If you are in the right kind of place, with the right kind of music, the combination is magical.

As part of the Sunset Concert series at the Skirball, a venerated Cuban ensemble gave their first performance in California (and second performance in the US), despite being formed over seventy years ago.

Photo by Timothy Norris

Photo by Timothy Norris

Photo by Timothy Norris

Photo by Timothy Norris

Formed by Arsenio Rodriguez, a giant in Latin music, the ensemble is led today by the grandson of the original trumpet player. When Rodriguez formed the band, he morphed the style of son music and added multiple horns, singers and congas. The result was a more Afro-Cuban flavor. Rodriguez decamped to the US in 1950, but not before blazing new trails with the likes of Machito and Dizzy Gillespie.

Under the leadership of trumpeter Felix Chappottin the band garnered wider international acclaim for the next three decades, despite the draconian isolation faced by the island nation.

Passing the baton from father to son to grandson, the band is now led by Jesus Angel Chappottin Coto. Releasing an impressive catalog of 18 albums in the last 15 years, the band has performed globally, from European and African venues to last month’s Montreal Jazz Festival. Hot off their Lincoln Center gig, the 12 piece band sizzled at the Skirball.

With a swaying beat, lead vocalists Eduardo Sandoval and co-leader Miguel Cuni encouraged folks to leave their seats in favor of the dance floor, which was soon filled with a multi-generational mélange. The crisp trumpet work of Coto, Eloy Abrew, Ramon Nunez and Agustin Someillan provided the melodic color on the framework built by bassist Armando Fuentes and percussionist Joaquin Pozo.

As the sunlight faded the warmth of the music enveloped the delighted audience.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.