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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Iguanas Perform Roots-Rock Magic

March 28, 1994|DON SNOWDEN

The Iguanas stand most roots-rock conventions on their heads. Rather than fast 'n' flashy guitar heroics and faithful re-creations of traditional styles, the New Orleans quintet stresses understatement and a mixed bag of Caribbean rhythms. The assortment of slow, sinuous grooves in its two hourlong sets at the Alligator Lounge on Friday were designed for the long-distance dancer, and they clearly struck a chord with the packed house at the first of two nights there.

Call it roots rhythm--the music may be grounded in New Orleans R&B but it's unpredictably seasoned with some cumbia here, some norteno there, and a few songs sung in Spanish. And everything is mixed together--when the Iguanas ventured into a recognizable New Orleans parade beat, guitarist Rod Hodges had switched to accordion and Joe Cabral was playing bajo sexto.

The group's basic sound revolved around the twin saxes of Cabral and Derek Huston--think of the tandem sax sound on Frankie Ford's "Sea Cruise"--with Cabral taking the wilder, more venturesome solos. Hodges' guitar played a secondary role, but that made the showcases for his fluid solos doubly effective.

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