Clave & Blues at Wally’s for Latin Jazz

While here in Boston how could I not stop by Wally’s Cafe.   Wally’s Cafe located in the South End of Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest continually operating jazz club in the United States. On Thursday night’s they serve up Latin jazz and tonight Clave & Blues was the featured act.

Clave and Blues at Wally's Jazz Cafe

Nestled between a pair of buildings on the edge of Boston’s South End on Massachusetts Avenue I found the club’s bright red door and sign.  Once I stepped through the door I was struck by the bare-bones feel of the bar but, in a positive way.  Some of the best music I have heard over the years has been at the most unassuming places.  Tonight, my streak of finding places where music is the main feature that keeps the crowd coming back continued.  Hearing The Clave & Blues was definitely a pleasure.

Added in tonight was Gaby Cotter from Panama who performed “Contigo en la Distancia.” Gaby enthralled the crowd with her rendition of the song.

Clave & Blues is made up of: Anibal Cruz on piano; Takafumi Nikaido on percussions; Orlando Retana on drums; Gerson Lazo on bass; Xito Lowell on trombone; and Iris Luis Gomez on vocals.  The band plays a mix of Latin jazz, salsa and other Latin music.  Every member of the band was a talented musician.  Often when there are six people on stage the individual talents of the members don’t stand out.  As I listened to Clave and Blues it was apparent that they have played together often as the band faded away to let each member play to their heart’s content on multiple extended solos.


I had the pleasure of chatting with lead singer Iris to learn more about the band and her musical tastes.

How did the band come up with it’s name?

The band has a mix of sounds between Jazz and Cuban music, we wanted to show that in the name. Clave stands for “la clave” the rhythmic pattern present in almost all Cuban music and Blues because all the musicians are influenced by jazz and blues. So we wanted our music and band to represent this mix.

What was the first album that you added to your personal music library?

[Iris] Take 6

What was your most recent addition to your personal music library?

[Iris] Alain Perez Agarrame si Puedes.

 What was your first live music experience?  Which venue and which artist(s)?

[Iris]  Singing when I was 6 years old.  The first concert was in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, where I was born, and it was a concert like America’s Got Talent for little kids  I loved it because I was not nervous. I got to enjoy it with no pressure. Just singing my song with a chorus. It was great

If you could cover one album in your music library which would it be?

[Iris]  I love all kinds of good music, I can’t say I have favorite, it’s maybe because I need to listen and be open to learn from all types of music  But I do have one CD that I like it is called Desafios- Omara Portuondo And Chucho Valdez.

What artist do you wish more people had in their music library?

[Iris] Keith Jarrett, Sting, Steve Wonder, Sarah Vaughan and Louis Armstrong.