Though it evolved from 1970s disco band Santa Esmeralda, the new Generation Esmeralda has come a long way.
“It’s not Silver Convention,” says Redwood City-based lead singer Jimmy Goings. “We don’t consider it disco music, even though we had worldwide hits in the disco era. The arrangements are well-crafted, and it’s not dated because it has Latin and flameco.”
Generation Esmeralda, featuring Goings, plays Thursday at Bimbo’s in the ninth annual Voices of Latin Rock Autism Awareness Benefit. The show, with Tierra headlining, is the first of two concerts for the Alex Speaks Foundation, which supports programs for children with autism at local schools. (A concert Friday at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City also benefits the organization.)
In its short history, Generation Esmeralda, which was formed last year, already has experienced the “highest highs and lowest lows,” Goings says.
Among the highs was reuniting with his old friend and veteran horn player Tom Poole, a bandmate in Santa Esmeralda’s late-1970s touring group, who brought together the current lineup: Mick Valentino and Tony Baker on guitar, Greg Jones on bass, Patrick Morehead on keyboards, Mike Renta on trombone, Steffen Kuehn on trumpet, Roberto Quintana on percussion and T Moran on drums.
A tour in Brazil, organized by promoter Sergio Lopes, was a great opportunity, but touched by tragedy by the death of drummer Brad Parker, who had a heart attack onstage.
Thanks to tremendous support from Parker’s family, Goings says, the band has continued, playing to honor him, and “now is forged in steel.”
Poole — who has worked with Etta James, Boz Scaggs, Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, Malo and Gregg Allman, among others — says, “I’ve been doing this all my life, for 57 years, and been on the road for 42, and I don’t make mistakes anymore when it comes to stuff like this: This is a very, very good band — a stellar band.”
Noting the music’s timelessness, Goings, who recorded six albums with Santa Esmeralda in the late ’70s, including the hit “The House of the Rising Sun,” gently points to the difference between Generation Esmeralda and that of Santa Esmeralda and Leroy Gomez, who sang lead on Santa Esmeralda’s first record (which included the disco rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”).
“The stylization is still stuck in 1978,” he says, adding, “I wouldn’t say they’re bad, but they’re not a tasteful representation of what the real music is.”
Both Goings and Poole emphasize Generation Esmeralda’s appeal for all ages. Says Poole, “Every gig we do, we make ’em dance.”
Voices of Latin Rock