VibraSÓN is a musical group that makes life in the state of California, specifically in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has become one of the best options for festivals and nightclubs seeking fresh sounds in terms of salsa, swing and Latin music in general.
I was pleased to know about this great orchestra, its members and sound thanks to its work at Charley’s LG, Bar and Nightclub where Eduardo Guilarte, our editor, was working and directing everything related to the lineups and musical programming for Latin music nights, more specifically on Tuesdays.
When I made contact, the person who was kind enough to reply was musical director of VibraSÓN. Jake Jacobs, who at the same time works as a producer, percussionist and backing vocalist.
Talk with Jake Jacobs from the group VibraSÓN
Jake Jacobs comes from a very interesting background. His first contact with music took place with his father and uncle, both of whom were professional musicians, but Jake says he has always been interested in this world.
He studied classical piano and music theory at the University of Illinois and took some jazz piano lessons in his passage through the University of California. During these years, the musical director spent roughly 13 hours a day practicing with this instrument to master it as well as possible.
With time, he became interested in Latin music and dance, which also led him to take dance classes at university. With that knowledge acquired up to that moment, he went to visit New York and his trip coincided with the National Puerto Rican Day Parade (an event held annually in New York and other states to celebrate Puerto Rico and its traditions in the United States).
This event inspired Jake so much that he returned to the Bay Area with the intention to switch his dance classes to salsa classes. He became so good that he began to teach salsa dance classes himself to numerous students interested in learning these rhythms, something he has been done for over 20 years in widely recognized clubs and dance studios.
He used to provide these classes twice a week at the Cocomo Club, which was very important at the time and attracted more than 600 people every day. When bands performed live, the future leader of VibraSÓN began to know musicians, who, in turn, gave him music lessons and his first opportunities to play in bands.
Apprenticeships and classes with great musicians
One of the most impressive credentials that Jake can have is to have studied with some of the best musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area such as Edgardo Cambón, Karl Perazzo, Michael Spiro, Louie Romero, among others.
Evidently, all these luminaries have taught the producer much of what he knows and applies today, but he ensures that it was not easy to learn from so many ”teachers” at the same time, in both dancing and music performance.
Ensures that some of the most important things he learned have to do with technique and tips to be applied such as how to play the drums, the notes at the right times, silences and much more.
He points out that they all taught him valuable and important things, which are still very useful to this day. One of those great lessons was to practice and practice until he achieved the sounds he wanted, especially in Latin music.
Finally, in 2014, Jake decided it was time to put into practice everything he learned and create his own musical group with his own original details. This is how VibraSÓN came about.
The origin of his band’s name came from Luis Morales, one of its members. It is based on vibraphone, which is not widely used by the orchestras from the San Francisco Bay Area, but by the dancers and by this new group in their performances. As for the end of the name, it comes from ”son cubano”, a typical genre of the island Jake likes very much.
Although Club Cocomo unfortunately closed the following year, that didn’t stop VibraSÓN from making its way and becoming one of the most demanded groups in the Bay Area in recent years.
One of the things that Jake thinks makes his group unique is that there are very few people who use the vibraphone and, due to his training as a dancer, he is always looking to make the most appropriate music for that part of the audience for whom dancing is very important.
How Jake and VibraSÓN read the crowd
For Jake and the rest of the band, it is very important to read the crowd and see how people react to the music they play at any time. They pay a lot of attention to the dance floor to see what works and what doesn’t with the people they play for that night.
Having played at clubs such as Charley’s, Bar Fluxus, La Peña Cultural, The Cigar Bar and Space 500, they have prepared a very generous repertoire for each performance. Just as they have written original music, they have also dedicated themselves to perform covers of the most buzzed-about artists in recent times in certain contexts, something that worked out for several orchestras when they need to draw on these resources to entertain the audience.
This wide repertoire that they now enjoy is what has allowed them to make diverse shows with lots of variety so that those present never get bored, even if they usually go to the same place.
Another thing they tend to do is add new arrangements and change genres to the covers they do so that they do not sound exactly like the originals and they can inject some of their essence, even if they are not songs written or sung by them originally. ”Even if they are covers, we always try to add our original arrangements so that the dancers enjoy them that much more” said Jake.
They have also learned to connect with the audience and know what the dancers and the general public want in order to give them exactly what they want. And they did not learn this overnight, but have observed in detail what other orchestras do to imitate what is good and useful.
Tours and future plans of VibraSÓN
At the end of the interesting talk, Jake told us that, for now, they only plan to record new music and other activities that are comfortable for all the members, since many of the musicians are in other orchestras and record for other people, so it is too complicated for them to tour with VibraSÓN. In addition to that, several of them have small children to care for, so it is impossible for them to travel for a long time.
He is so considerate because he always tries to keep the same members and preserve the unity of the group above all else. It has worked for them, as they have managed to made a name, which will continue to become popular over time.