Conjunto Progreso – Miami’s Finest “Keepers of the Flame.”

by Maria Tojeiro Gonzalez on October 29, 2011

Maria Tojeiro Gonzalez is a writer and photographer who lives in Miami. She loves fashion and style and is an avid music lover.

Conjunto Progreso’s jam session forms part of the top local entertainment, which is selected by PAX (Performing Arts Exchange) to delight the multitude in attendance. The band has become immensely popular as is evidenced by the large and ever increasing number of folks in attendance at their performances.

There are many outstanding soneros in our magic city, but none more constant than the original Keepers of the Flame, who have maintained the fire & soul of the traditional sound of the Cuba of old alive and kicking for many years now, and who continue to do so with their outstanding, on stage jam (descarga) sessions.

Nominated for various Grammys throughout their illustrious career they are just about the most excellent group of musicians you will ever listen to. Their non-rehearsed, on stage delivery produces a recorded stereo sound with an enormous impact that reaches into the depths of your soul and ignites the hip-swaying tropical rhythms within you.

Led by Johnny Aguilo, the son of the legendary Cuban trumpet player, Rolando “El Ruso” Aguilo” and grandson of Cuban bass player, Mario Aguilo (who played with Nat King Cole), the group is an ensemble of middle age and young, aggressive Cuban musicians, who bring to the table a one of a kind traditional Cuban music experience. They are one of the hardest working bands in the nation, and there is never a weekend where the boys are not performing. The orchestra (conjunto) sound, replete with tres finesse, with powerful & deep-groove descarga jams, is inspiring, moving, amazing & out of this world!

Conjunto Progreso Grammy nomination celebration.

Listen to Conjunto Progreso’s latest CD – “Alive in Miami.”

Freddy Cardenas & Johnny Aguilo are musical legacies. Their combined golden voices are rich with harmonies, which make an impact with their own unique sound. Freddy is an authentic, gifted Cuban singer, a master of the “son” and the beast of the rhythm (es un barbaro)! Johnny is a ball of contagious energy on stage! He has great musicality and his voice has great expressivity. Fantastic!

Jose Elias’ skillful dominance of the tres guitar, and his tres solo, was one of the memorable highlights of Progreso’s performance. Jose’s tres mastery technique is poetry in sound. His strumming of the guitar is just tres magic! Jose is a delight to watch & listen too both when he plays the tres & also when he plays the electric guitar. A string magician! Amazing!!

Philbert Armenteros on congas was right up there in the unforgettable highlights of the groups’ performance. Philbert worked those skins with super speed of lightning rhythmic power. An exemplary conga virtuoso, he is a “natural” musician, born to sound those skins. Monstrous performance! Philbert is nicknamed El Dios Dado (God Given) and he is just this as his natural ability can only be a gift from the heavens above.

Michael Font on timbales captivated us and provided some of the most inspiring rhythmic sounds ever heard! Michael’s playing provided expert accompaniment, which reminded us of why Latin big-band music is so infectious. He had us “guaracheando” (dancing non-stop)! Tremendous style & delivery!

Samuel Forte on bass is, without a doubt, one of the forefront Cuban bassists of todays times. Samuel’s intricate techniques of Cuban bass rhythms are syncopation perfection! He was in the groove & had a tremendous vibe. The dancers could not get enough of his syncopated beat.

Pepe Montes on keyboards is a musical giant and was right on point! He tickles the keys with intensity & magnificence and is a hurricane force gale in Afro-Cuban jazz! Pepe is a phenomenal keyboard player and he delighted everyone with an elegant performance.

Yasmani Roque and Mauricio Del Monte, the young gentlemen who compose Progreso’s powerhouse horn section, are just about the absolute best wind instrumentalists around. They perfectly augment Progreso’s traditional Cuban son repertoire. Their harmonic and melodic accompaniment are an integral part of the Progreso sound. The boys are the perfect spectacular horn unit team! Awesome!

Conjunto Progreso always satisfies, never disappoints, and I can’t wait for their next performance!! Their hard, meritorious work & dedication in preserving the traditional Cuban sound is to be commended. Thanks so much Progreso for all that you do for the music community, for preserving our tradition, and for sharing your amazing talents with your fans. You guys are the BEST!!

Led by singer Johnny Aguilo, Conjunto Progresso is considered one of the finest "keepers-of-the-flame" orchestras in the states. The conjunto sound, replete with tres finesse (Jose Elias), with powerful sones and deep-groove descarga jams, is alive and well. This is down-and-dirty stuff, close your eyes and you can almost smell the grit of a smoke-filled club reeking of rum and coke, and the sweat of people dancing, having a great time.

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