It took some time, but Orquesta GarDel now has as many years under its belt as it has members—more than a dozen.

Durham’s beloved salsa band was three years deep in a lively residency at Living Arts Collective when COVID-19 hit, but they wanted to keep the energy going, so they jumped on the “record a song where everyone did their part and someone with video-editing skills stitched it together” bandwagon, as pianist Eric Hirsh says.

The result is “Siempre Estoy Contigo,” which we’re happy—a term we use advisedly, as these are some great vibes—to premiere today.  

Orquesta GarDel has had a surprisingly stable membership for such a large and long-running band, though a few original members have moved away and founding vocalist Nelson Delgado passed on in 2016.

“The residency has held the band together, kept us close, always trying to create something new, not just be a stale repertory ensemble,” says Hirsh, who was also a founding member of The Beast with Pierce Freelon. “Every fourth Sunday we’d try new arrangements, play a half-written original song, and see how the crowd reacted (which had grown both in number and in diversity—dancers, non-dancers, different ages, even families with children).”

“Siempre Estoy Contigo” came out of these freewheeling sessions. Originally, Hirsh says, it was a descarga—a jam session where all the musicians solo and show off—without vocals. The video retains that spirit by giving each performer a moment to improvise, adding vocal refrains and a guest appearance by former member Jaime Roman with a message from Puerto Rico.

The video was edited by Pete Kimosh, the bassist of Orquesta GarDel:

YouTube video

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