“Cabo Verde’s smooth flamenco-jazz conjures images of stylish dancers twirling and dipping on a warm night in an open-air Madrid bar. The Asheville trio takes you to a moonlit beach somewhere south of the border with its mix of authentic Latin and Afro-Cuban grooves and funky rhythms. Guitarist Juan Benavides, drummer Robin Tolleson, and bassist Jake Wolf take everything that is good about Flamenco music and expound on it, giving the traditional dance music enough breathing room to establish an identity all its own. With its intricate acoustic guitar arrangements, gyrating drums and ambient jazz digressions, Cabo Verde doesn’t encourage a dancing frenzy as much as it inspires careful listening. And yet, the trio never take themselves too seriously, maintaining playfulness and threading a spicy undercurrent throughout.” Bold Life, April 2008
Guitarist Juan Benavides brought his neo-flamenco vision to Asheville in 2002, and Cabo Verde has been a popular festival and club attraction ever since. The group has performed at Artisphere, Fiesta Latina, LEAF, and LAAFF, The Grey Eagle, Bobo Gallery, Emerald Lounge, and The Pour House in Charleston, featuring Benavides’ original compositions incorporating flamenco, Afro-beat, funk, and jazz. ”People say that it feels familiar but very different at the same time,” Benavides says. “I think it has a primal ethnicity to it that we have all heard somewhere before, but something new and contemporary too. It’s something ancient that we’re drawn to.”
Benavides grew up in Bogota, Colombia. Although influenced by a wide range of artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Peter Gabriel, he has been mostly affected by flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. “His presence, dexterity and elegance stuck to my soul,” Benavides says, remembering a televised concert of de Lucia he saw as a child.
Benavides moved to the US in high school, and his guitar work led him into the Greenville, NC-based heavy metal band Sex Love and Money in 1991. The band was signed to a major label deal with Rock World/Sony in 1994 and a US tour followed.
Benavides was being drawn to flamenco music however, and serious study ensued. He met guitarist Jaime Ibarra in Charlotte, and they began performing and recording together as a flamenco guitar duo, first under the name Fuego del Alma, then as De Madera. De Madera recorded the album Aire y Candela in 2000 for the Alula label, exploring traditional flamenco, rumba flamenco, and guitarra Latina.
Attracted to the artistic community of Asheville, Benavides moved to the mountains in 2001. He soon met, and was playing with, many of the area’s best musicians, and his vision of flamenco fusion was continued in the band he named Cabo Verde. He added drummer Robin Tolleson to the mix in 2004, and bassist Jake Wolf joined in 2007.
Robin Tolleson studied drums with Narada Michael Walden in San Francisco, and has performed and recorded with Patrick O’Hearn, Gregory James, Hip Bones, Big Block Dodge, Klarcnova, and The Secret B-Sides.
Jake Wolf is a Boston-native who studied bass with Kai Eckhardt and studied world music at the Ali Akbar Khan School in San Rafael, CA. Since moving to Asheville in 2006, Wolf has performed with Kellin Watson, East Coast Dirt, Peggy Ratusz, Billy Jonas and others.