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It's mission accomplished for the experimental Latin Project

October 03, 2003|Agustin Gurza | Times Staff Writer

The Latin Project, as its name suggests, is a musical experiment in progress. The band, which made an energetic debut at the Conga Room on Wednesday, started as a studio concept in London's musical melting pot, fusing contemporary club beats with traditional Latin sounds, especially Brazilian.

The work is the brainchild of two British buddies from the underground dance scene, Matt Cooper and Jez Colin.

Both are producers, composers and multi-instrumentalists in their 30s who had separate projects: Colin was co-founder of the acid-jazz group the Solsonics, Cooper the creator of Outside and credited with pioneering club-oriented jazz in the United Kingdom.

Latin strains have been swirling through the house and dance scenes for some time. But Cooper and Colin wanted a more organic, live Latin sound. The result, as unveiled in Wednesday's 75-minute set, is an entrancing concoction of hypnotic beats, airy melodies and jazzy instrumentals worthy of the title of the group's debut album, "Nueva Musica."

This act is meant to be heard, and seen, in person. The group creates a groove that follows the flow of the moment, with improvised solos and sputtering endings that sometimes percolate directly into the next number.

In its tour incarnation, different from the album lineup, the band has nine members who sound like 15, thanks to limited digital sampling and the game of musical chairs played by Cooper and Colin, jumping between keyboards, drums and bass.

Brazil's alluring Katia Moraes and Guadeloupe's imposing, kick-boxing Joel Virgel Vierset make an exotic vocal pair in tight jumpsuits, hers black, his white. Behind the keyboards, Cooper behaves like a gleeful, goateed demon, a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Eddie Palmieri, with a style that's both spacey and earthy, perfectly suited for this novel, electro-Latin melange.

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