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Venice Band Leaders Bring Funky Grooves to Pier Concert Series  

By Gene Williams
Lookout Staff

August 4, 2011 – The Santa Monica Pier should get moving and grooving tonight to an infectious fusion of hot latin, cool jazz, rockin’ R&B and thumpin’ funk, when the Twilight Dance Series continues with the music of local band leaders Nelson Marquez and Tutu Sweeny.

The event, called Rock of the Bay, is presented by series partner Cirque Du Soleil and local environmental organization Heal the Bay.

Kickoff time for the bands is 7 p.m. As always, the concert is free.

Best known locally as leader of the Venice-based latin groove band Mango Bang, Marquez is a seasoned musician who has performed at numerous big-name venues, including the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl with musical mentor Israel Lopez Cachao.

With his latest band, the Moderators, ready to take the stage at the pier, it’s a good bet Marquez will continue to put out an eclectic blend of urban dance beats, but expect him throw in some new musical twists he’s learned in recent years.

Marquez has been credited on three Grammy-winning projects and has licensed numerous of tracks of his music to film and television. He has also produced a project for Virgin recording artist Crystal Sierra and appeared as an actor in the movie Lost City with his godfather, Andy Garcia.

Joining Marquez on the bill is another Venice prodigy, Tutu Sweeny, who brings his youthful fresh approach to a variety of established rock music genres, from modern soul to retro psychedelia to ska-influenced new wave and punk.

Born and raised in the nearby Venice beach neighborhood, Sweeny grew up in a house full of instruments, the child of artistic parents of Ethiopian and Irish backgrounds.

As a trumpet player at Hamilton High School’s music academy, Sweeny took up piano and songwriting sometime around his senior year in 2010. A quick study, his skills won him a scholarship to an intensive songwriting workshop in London.

A short time later, he put the Brothers Band together with his older brother, Te'Amir Yohannes Sweeney. The band just completed a tour of the United States opening for soul singer Aloe Blacc.

Now 20 years old, Tutu sees a bright musical future ahead, with his debut album, London Knight, set to be released soon.

The Twilight Dance Series showcases an eclectic array of some of the best musical acts from throughout the world. Downbeat for the 2011 series is 7 p.m. every Thursday between July 7 and September 8.

Sponsored by One West Bank, upcoming shows include big band swing dancing August 11 and an evening of surf guitar August 18. The series concludes with a New Orleans funk and blues night, September 8.

With this year’s lineup promising to draw large crowds, pier officials encourage concert goers to walk, bike or ride the Big Blue Bus.

Parking will be available at the beach lot located north of the pier at 1550 Pacific Coast Highway, but the pier itself will be closed to traffic. A bike valet will be available on the bike path on the south side of the pier.

Cosponsors of the 2011 series include Pacific Park, Bloomingdales, StarLine Tours, the Australian Consulate, Cotton On and the City of Santa Monica. The series is produced by the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation and Ron & Humble.

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