A Review from FLORIDA FLAMBEAU {01/23/97}

BY JOHN BUSCH Staff Writer

Marea Alta's flavor comes from its mixing of musical styles that blend as naturally together as brown sugar on a mango, cool breezes with warm sands, and sweet pineapple and dark rum.

"What is the real feature of the band?" asks Marea Alta's founder and keyboardist J. Santiago Nunez. "The ability to engage the listener"

Marea Alta is a five-piece Latin/pop/smooth jazz group that has been serenading music lovers of the Big Bend area since 1985.

The group was founded in St. Petersburg, Fl. in the early '80s. When Nunez came to Florida State University to pursue his doctoral degree in criminology he brought the music with him.

Now, more than a decade later, they've found a venue all their own with Club Park Avenue's Latin Night 1997.

Every Thursday night, you can find this group of seasoned, joyful musicians bringing you a sound so sweet you'll have no choice but to follow the pounding rhythm out onto the dance floor.

Latin Night now holds a permanent spot on CPA's official calendar, bringing a refreshing change to the usual goings-on of the club that haven't seemed to change much over the past few years.

On Thursday nights you may see bodies getting close and grinding to the beat, but the movements will be more graceful and more pure. And the music will most definitely be from the heart. Marea Alta will bring you two or more sets of live music every single Thursday at CPA. While the band plays in one room, the best DJ's of Latin pop dance music in the area will be spinning the hot 'n' spicy wax.

"It's a very appealing concept," said Nunez . "If you take a break from the meringue you can go into another room and still get something latin."

The band consists of James Lockart on saxophone, Mike Andrews on guitar, Robert Dockett on percussion and Riarco Ellis on flute. Nunez composes the music, programs the drum and bass into a sequencer and plays keyboards. There have been earlier line-ups of the group but the sound has remained consistent .

"Even if the people are different, Marea Alta is the same," said Nunez.

Guitarist Andrews discovered the band almost by accident.

"I walked into Andrews upstairs one night and said 'Boy, that sounds like happy music. I would like to play that,'" he said.

Flute player Riarco Ellis, a senior music education major at Florida A&M University, considers his time with Marea Alta as part of his education.

"Improvising and playing music is just as important as writing," said Ellis.

Nunez cites jazz musicians such as Jeff Lorber, Lee Ritenour and David Sanborn as influences along with pop jazz and funk groups like the Rippingtons and the Tower of Power Horns. Some of his favorite groups are Lee Ritenour, Spyro Gyra and Herbie Mann.

"I use their Brazilian flavor and approach to music as a frame of reference to create my own musical product," said Nunez.

"It's Latin because it has that flavor, but it's pop," Nunez said. "It's based on popular melodic arrangements that people can relate to."

While the band was in St. Petersburg it scored a top-ten hit in Nunez's Venezuela with the song "November the 25" which was number four on the charts for three weeks and stayed on the charts for a total of seven months.

"It got to the top ten without the support of any record company," Nunez said proudly. "The radio station played it once and people kept calling and calling."

Marea Alta will be appearing every Thursday night at Club Park Avenue as part of Noche Tropical. Call (850)599-9143 for more information.

If you have comments or suggestions, email me at Marea Alta