Is Boston On the verge of becoming the Salsa Capital On New England? If Hector Cuevas has anything to do with it, you can bet that he and his Boston Latin Band will be at the forefront of a movement. Born in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, Hector Cuevas was influenced by music from a very early age. His mother was a pianist and he was always hearing Cuban music playing in his home. Being the son of a political figure in the Dominican Republic, Hector told me his early life was somewhat sheltered. In his own words "I either played baseball or I listened to music." Despite his love of baseball, the music eventually won out.
His first musical instrument was actually a cowbell, given to him by the mother of Johnny Ventura, a veritable musical "Hollywood Star" in his native Dominican Republic. In his younger days, Cuevas hung out with the merengue-artist-turned-politician, Johnny Ventura, and began learning percussion from band-member Victor D'Carlos, Johnny's timbale player at the time. This proved to be a critical chapter in Hector's musical development. On the occasion of a Johnny Ventura performance in Santo Domingo when Victor D'Carlos was late in getting to the show, it was Cuevas that Johnny tapped on the shoulder to fill in on timbale on the opening number because, as Cuevas says, "I knew the basic theme and the show had to start on time." Hector Cuevas might have been a bit unnerved by being put on the spot but, necessity being the mother of invention; this started the current musical revolution within. "From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my life—in those instances, you just do what you have to do," claims Cuevas.
In 1971, at age 17, Hector's father got him a visa to "work and study accounting" in the USA. All well and good, but he just couldn't get away from the music mounting inside his soul. "Music was in my heart and my goal was to play with the best bands in New York, which at the time were Primitivo Santos and Johnny Pacheco," says Cuevas. This led to his first big break—playing for Primitivo Santos and his band in New York, including a Puerto Rican tour.
Several geographical moves were in store for Cuevas. The music led him from New York City to New Orleans, to Miami, back to New York City and finally to Cambridge. Each city represented a crucial step in Cuevas' growing musical career. Claims Cuevas, "I came to Boston out of curiosity just to visit and see what was happening there." It was fortunate that he decided to stay for a while. It was here that he met his current partner, band manager, and the musicians that would make up what is today anywhere from a nine to sixteen piece band known as Hector Cuevas and The Boston Latin Band. Having included "Boston" in their name is quite significant. "We're a New England-based band regardless of our roots and we want to make sure people know that," explains Cuevas. To recruit members for his band, he took a widely varying perspective. According to Cuevas, "I wanted the best and when you're looking for the best, you've got to look everywhere." Thus it was no surprise to Cuevas to find that perhaps some of the best musicians might even be found playing in subway stations. "Imagine what it's like going from the subway station directly to The Regattabar?" suggests Cuevas. In the case of his recruiting his current vocalist Kelvin Carbuccia, that's exactly how it happened. Other band members comprise some of the best and well-known musicians in the genre.
The band lineup is somewhat like a book that offers different endings—after an evolving story chapter by chapter. Band manager Janet Miller-Wiseman of MillerWise Productions explains, "we are a custom designed band." According to Miller-Wiseman, "whether it happens to be a wedding; a cruise; a birthday party, a music festival, a Bar Mitzvah or a night club, the event determines the exact lineup of musicians and final delivery.