Serial entrepreneur Chris Nettuno isn’t merely a music patron; he’s a member of the band. And when the COVID-19 lockdown threatened the livelihood of his group of full-time studio musicians and sidemen, the conga player found a way to keep the music playing. Those weekly porch concerts not only kept the musicians afloat but became the lifeblood of the debut album from the multicultural band Canelita Sabrosa. The Atlanta-based unit’s self-titled set, produced by five-time Grammy winner Dru Castro (India.Aire, Usher, Childish Gambino) along with the band’s two-time Grammy-winning guitarist Julio Miranda and drummer Chunky Sounds, drops May 20 on the band’s Canelita Sabrosa Records label.
During the first few months of the pandemic, Nettuno invited the band over to play in his family room. After a few songs, they heard applause coming from outside the house. Neighbors had gathered and asked the group to perform outside. The eight-piece outfit that blends Latin, jazz, R&B, funk and rock was happy to oblige the following week. Word spread quickly and soon hundreds of people began flocking to the weekly Friday night shows. A local television reporter was in the audience, which led to a segment on Atlanta’s CBS affiliate. The grassroots buzz inspired Canelita Sabrosa to record an album featuring a mix of the popular cover tunes that populate their live setlist along with five original songs composed by Miranda and a pair of songs written by vocalist-rhythm guitarist Kenny Nettuno and his son, KJ Nettuno.
Canelita Sabrosa, which means tasty cinnamon in Spanish, is a name selected to reflect the group’s multiethnic makeup as well as the multicultural stylings they incorporate into their world music amalgam. Colorful Puerto Rican, Afro Cuban, Brazilian and Caribbean nuances intermingle with improvised jazz explorations and rock god guitar pyrotechnics. Anchored by thick percussive salsa, samba and bossa nova beats constructed by Sounds, Chris Nettuno and percussionist Frankie Quinones, Miranda issues piercing lead guitar riffs and scorching solos seasoned by Kenny Nettuno’s spicy rhythms and sweet melodies. As bassist Matt Stallard carves deep-pocketed grooves, the dynamic three-man horn section - trumpeter Justin Powell, saxophonist EJ Hughes and sax/flutist Mac Isseks - douses the tracks with fire and fervor. Adding to the project’s pedigree is four-time Grammy-winning engineer Ralph Cacciurri (Coldplay, OutKast, Pink).
“Canelita Sabrosa is a culmination of diverse cultures and musical backgrounds. We all have one thing in common and that is passion: passion for life, love and music. That passion is what drives every part of our music - the grooves, the tones, the words!” enthused Chris Nettuno.
The music on “Canelita Sabrosa” is primarily instrumental with a handful of selections appearing on the album in both instrumental and vocal versions. The eclectic track list confirms the band’s multigenerational appeal with the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and present day represented by fresh versions of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” The Cure’s “Lovesong” and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita” and “Havana.”
“The covers are all about the grooves, the feeling. We try to play music that people can identify with and feel while letting each musician fly freely to let loose and show their musical soul and unique voice in each song,” said Chris Nettuno.
Of the originals, “Te Espere” moves to a sultry and sensual Latin jazz groove. “Si Se Puede” sashays and shimmies along a percussion and horn powered conga line. Miranda’s impassioned electric guitar ignites “Morning” as invigorating harmonies cascade over layers of percussion. The exotic “Breath of Rio” captivates and entrances while the anthemic “Vamos” is a celebratory fiesta. Elation propels the rousing “Clouded Vision.” Kenny Nettuno’s smooth and inviting voice provides cozy comfort on “Late Winter.”
“Canelita Sabrosa” has been serviced to radio and is already collecting airplay and playlist adds at world music outlets. It’s music to dance to, it’s music to party to, and the exuberant energy and vibrant spirit that proliferate the album are infectious and intoxicating.
“As a band, we really enjoy playing together and Covid couldn’t slow us down. We started recording in the summer of Covid, which was The Summer of Love for Canelita Sabrosa. We wrote and recorded because we never stopped when everyone else had to. We found a way. Chris Nettuno had other plans. Because of this one man, us musicians where saved. He kept us playing to feed the beast in our soul to perform for people and to help them forget that we were in a pandemic. As the world steadily emerges from the grip of the pandemic, the timing is perfect to release our first album,” said Miranda.