Smitty: I’m delighted to welcome to JazzMonthly.com a monster band with an incredible vibe. They’ve got a nice new CD out; it’s called Back in the Day. They’ve got quite a unique band with a ton of beautiful history. Please welcome from the master group, Mr. Rocco DePersia from Cintron. Hello, how ya doing, Rocco?
Rocco DePersia (RD): I’m doing great. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
Smitty: Thank you. So you guys have really had some wonderful times with this great band, and I say it’s so unique because to have 15 individuals in a band and to rock with such harmony is a very beautiful thing.
RD: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I’m very proud. It’s actually six years now and we’ve mostly been together for six years.
Smitty: Wow. So how did this all happen? You’ve got a very diverse group of musicians in this band and great singers. You didn’t just make 15 phone calls and say let’s do this thing.
RD: You’re right. Well, Edgardo Cintron is pretty well established as a Latin jazz percussionist and he had a couple of the solo projects that had come out prior to this, and I think it was his third CD and the record company he was dealing with went out of business. Well, at the time I was producing a lot of Latin dances and concerts in the Philadelphia market, and he came to me and wanted to know if I wanted to get involved, and I said “I do, but I want to expand your format a little bit and incorporate some Latin soul and a little more of an R&B vibe into it.” So what we did was we took a lot of musicians that have played with Edgardo in the past and musicians that have played at my dances and at my little Latin club that I had in Camden, New Jersey and we put them together, so we have influences from straight-up salsa band to Latin jazz and jazz musicians to some R&B and soul guys.
Smitty: Wow. And that’s easier said than done, right?
RD: Yeah, I’m very, very proud to be able to keep everybody together all these years. I think that diversity is what is also the glue because it gives each guy an opportunity to step out from what they’ve been doing traditionally for quite a period of time and actually form into something kinda new and a little bit novel.
Smitty: Very cool. Talk about some of the reactions that you got from the members of the band when you first sprung this idea on them of putting this huge band together.
RD: Well, originally I think they were looking at me because a lot of the guys were traditionally straight-up Latin and they were saying “Well, you can’t do it back there” and I was saying “Well, I kinda can. I can do what I want at this point. We’re making things up as we go.” But originally I think they looked at it like “I don’t know if this is gonna work,” but as we started playing and everybody’s heart was in the right place…and I’ve known a lot of the guys for many, many, many years and if not directly, indirectly they’ve all kinda known, if not each other, of each other, and I think there’s a mutual respect there that kept everybody together. Once we started to come together, everybody kinda liked it, and to keep some of these people involved in the project this many years with this many guys, I’m sure, as you can probably imagine, is no small feat but it’s been an effort of love, actually.
Smitty: I can imagine, and I think that effort of love really takes over and really allows so many wonderful things to happen when you’re putting something like this together. What’s a typical session like?
RD: Well, we try to incorporate everybody’s influences and if you listen to the CD, for instance, you’ll see we run the gambit from Latin jazz to bilingual salsa to Santana aspect-type things to….we take on a little more R&B and put them on Latin rhythms. We do that as well. So we try to incorporate everything into all our sessions so that everybody is included and gets to shine in their particular genre.
Smitty: Yeah, who buys dinner after sessions?
RD: Unfortunately, it seems like it’s my turn most of the time. (Both laughing.)
Smitty: Man, that’s gotta be quite a bill.
RD: Well, in the beginning it wasn’t too bad because we used to practice at my little joint, and we would just keep doing it there and I was paying costs for everything, but I since sold the place, so now it’s not as cost-effective, shall we say.
Smitty: I’ll say. That could shut the bar down. (Both laughing.) Wow, so, now, you’ve been quite diverse yourself in so many different arenas; you’re an attorney, you’ve had your own club, you’re a dance guy….talk about some of these great ventures because I know when we get into talking about the dances, this could take a while.
RD: Well, I’ve run some of the largest dances in the Philadelphia market for about eight years. I probably ran close to 400 dances and concerts here mostly centered around salsa music. I did that and I started to get to know a lot of these guys, but at the same time I was in the fight business for about a decade and I was fortunate enough to have the heavyweight champ of the world for a couple years. So I try to come at you from as many angles as I could and I figured one of ‘em would work.
Smitty: Yeah, wow. You’ve just had your hands in all kinds of things, that’s for sure. So does any of that become of value to you when dealing with the music, the band?
RD: Well, I think everything helps and they all interact, at least in my mind….I don’t know if it appears that way to anyone else….but they all interweave within each other and I can draw some lines to the other. Like my law practice; I’ve become everybody’s attorney obviously, so.... (Both laughing.) And the same thing….and they cross venues to help market each other.