Two years ago, a friend called bandleader and piano player Orlando Ramos and said that a club had a cancellation and needed a salsa band in three days.
“I made some phone calls,” recalled Ramos, “and was able to get some local talent and we did the gig. After that they offered us a few more dates, so I called some of the musicians I had performed with in the past and that’s how DonGato Latin Band was born.”
While DonGato Latin Band started in a flurry, they’re here to stay. On Saturday, Oct. 28, the Sacramento-based quintet will bring the sounds of Cuba and Puerto Rico to The Palms Playhouse in Winters for a CD release show and dance party. The music will start at 8 p.m.
Ramos joined his big brother’s salsa band when he was just 13. After fronting his own band, Latin Kings, while in high school in New Jersey, Ramos joined the best salsa band in town at the time, Orquesta Impacto. With this band, Ramos opened for major salsa artists such as Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Oscar De Leon, El Gran Combo and many more. After leaving Orquesta Impacto, Ramos again headed his own band, Toque Final (Final Touch), until moving to California in 1996. He played in the SF-based salsa band Conjunto Alegre until forming DonGato in 2015.
In addition to Ramos on keys and background vocals, DonGato Latin Band is Barbara Kelbo, Carlos McCoy, Hugo Ochoa and Eddie Vidales.
Kelbo, lead vocalist and guicharo (Puerto Rican gourd instrument) player, starting singing professionally at the age of five in her native Puerto Rico. After a record deal and touring all over US and Latin America, she moved to Atwater when her husband’s job was transferred. There she performed with many Bay Area Bands until joining DonGato Latin Band in 2015.
Award-winning saxophonist and flutist McCoy has performed with a variety of greats including Bobby Escovedo, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artists The Dells, Jerry Martini (The Family Stone) and Grammy winners Jamie Dubberly and Carlos Caro (Pacific Mambo Orchestra). He was lead alto chair for Disney in 2006 (All American College Band), and has performanced at the Vienne, Umbria and Montreux jazz festivals in Europe.
In addition to playing in DonGato, McCoy leads his own Latin jazz octet and quintet and is a professor of music at Sacramento State, where he heads the Sacramento State University Latin Jazz Ensemble.
Ochoa has been performing with Latin and R&B bands for the last 25 years in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas where he has established himself as a top-rated bass player.
Vidales hails from Woodland, and has traveled all over the world playing with various cumbia and salsa bands since the 1970s. He joined DonGato Latin Band as their congas and bongo player.
Ramos explained that, while the band is relatively new, the name goes back decades.
“Back when, before joining my brother’s band, I followed him to every rehearsal and gig wanting to play for his band. So all of his band used to say to one another, here comes that cat again trying to get in with the band. So I told them one day when I get my own band together, I won’t be ‘the cat’ I will be the Top Cat, which translates to DonGato. That’s how it all came together.”
DonGato Latin Band will be celebrating the release of their first CD “Cat’s Out of the Bag” at The Palms show. The CD features a combination of classic Cuban and Puerto Rican tunes and pop songs such as “Sway” and “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” given a full Latin treatment. The band is working on a follow-up album of original music.
Tickets for DonGato Latin Band’s Saturday, October 28 dance show are $17 and are available at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland and at the door if not sold out.
For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and dongatolatinband.com