Even back when keyboardist David Wake was one-third of Recycled Future, he was quietly working away on his Latin outfit De La Buena. Although the group's certainly never been a secret, it's rarely been Wake's most visible project.
And that's a shame. Because the group's recent CD, "La Tortuga," shows that De La Buena is as adept at African-flavored Latin jazz as Wake's other band, Kings Go Forth, is at recreating vintage soul sides.
Launched at a release party in March but not officially out until last week, "La Tortuga" simmers on tracks like "Shagu" and "Sanassin," and sears on Latin jazz workouts "Sambaji" and "Pelotas Blue," both fueled by Wake's bubbling Hammond organ.
From top to bottom, "La Tortuga" – which means, perhaps appropriately, "The Turtle," in Spanish – is a Latin dance festival on a disc.
Wake says the project has been long in the making, due to a number of outside influences.
"We have been working on this album since early 2009," says Wake. "Most of these are a full 10-piece band playing live in the studio. Over the last two years, we pared down to nine of the 13 (songs) we recorded at those sessions.
"Then we over-dubbed vocals, some solos, percussion, vibes and certain other aspects. Jeff Hamilton and I spent countless hours in the studio overdubbing and mixing."
What slowed the process, then?
"All this in the midst of heavy heavy Kings Go Forth touring and recording, as well as, raising a little girl, teaching and finding other ways to make ends meet. (Those) have definitely made it a difficult process, but we are very happy with the results."
It also can't be easy keeping a large band going full-time, either. Four other members of Kings Go Forth were in De La Buena when the record was made and three of them – plus Wake – are still doing double duty.
But busy working musicians like trumpeter Jamie Breiwick, Mike Pauers, Aaron Gardner and others are also part of the expansive De La Buena lineup. Breiwick, who is especially active on the local jazz scene, has been there since the early days.
He says that as hard as it is for Wake – who is as masterful at understatement and modesty as he is on the ivories – to juggle all this, he is a shining example of a bandleader.
"Dave is a wonderful bandleader," says Breiwick. "Makes sure we all get paid well, is understanding and flexible when scheduling rehearsals, gigs, sound checks, etc. – while maintaining a very high level of creativity and looseness within the band. (It is) very much a family vibe in De La.
"As a bandleader, I have learned so much from watching Dave manage De La Buena."
Breiwick has also been there as De La Buena has changed over the years.
"I started playing with the group way early on, when it was a four-piece group playing a weekly at Sol Fire on Farwell," he recalls. "I sat in because I knew Dave from Recycled Future. He invited me and Mike Pauers down to play. The were at the time playing mostly jazz standards. The band really grew organically over time."
Breiwick thinks that "La Tortuga" captures the band's progress over the years.
"I think the record is a perfect encapsulation of the band's growth," he says, "from four-piece to the 10-plus-piece force it has become. I cannot speak on behalf of Dave or anyone else, but I'm very proud to have been a part of the group and of this recording.
"I think the record definitely captures the spirit of the band heard live, as of 2011. The expansion and use of more vocals, the guest cameos, the freedom of improvisation within the structure of Dave's meticulous compositions and arrangements ... it's all there."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.