2016 will be remembered as a year of firsts for Electric Piquete: first concept video release, first single featuring a lead vocalist, first EP release since 2010, first performance on the West Coast of Florida, simultaneously the first time we drove through a major hurricane and first major out-of-state music festival performance, first Grammy submission and ballot appearance, and first anniversary of Noche Latina at Guanabanas Island Restaurant & Bar. This year also marked the loss of some of the band’s favorite musicians: David Bowie, Blowfly, Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Sir George Martin, Keith Emerson, Gato Barbieri, Merle Haggard, Lonnie Mack, Prince, Bernie Worrell, Nick Menza, Scotty Moore, Toots Thieleman, Greg Lake, Alphonse Mouzon and others.


Here’s a look at the year that was:


EP started the year off at one of its favorite Miami live music venues, Little Havana’s Ball & Chain, playing the weekly “Miami Boheme” night January 8 on the world-famous Pineapple Stage. Next up was the rescheduled “Jazz in the Lakes” concert in Miami Lakes on January 30, which had been rained out back in November of 2015. Notably, the band was joined by first-time sub and woodwind ace Derrick Dymalski, who filled in nicely. The weather was cool and the crowd was super-receptive.


The group returned to the Virginia Key Grass Roots Festival of Music and Dance on February 21, once again playing the Dance Tent. They were joined on stage by local singing sensation Big Brooklyn Red, and the vocalist ably freestyled his way over a number with the band. Electric Piquete made their Blue Martini Brickell debut on Leap Day, gracing the slim, but sheik stage with two sets of their signature Latin funk sound.


March stands out in that the boys made a return to the Fountain Terrace stage at their hometown Hialeah Park March 26. Also, the group began a series of Tuesday engagements at Ball & Chain called Piquete Sessions on March 29, which saw them rotate through a series of musical themes. The sessions clearly forced the band out of its comfort zone, making them grow and come together to learn a whole set of material in a limited amount of time.


Other positives about the series were that they got to cover bands and artists they necessarily wouldn’t have, including Prince, Curtis Mayfield and The Doors, as well as pay homage to some of their influences. The first one was a tribute to none other than Herbie Hancock, and the band’s sound was clearly enhanced by the presence of long-time keyboardist Charles “Chip” Gardner and tenor sax man Robert Smiley.  Click here to check out a YouTube playlist of numbers the band covered.


April 8 saw the band debut at the Friday Night Sound Waves program on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The band played a well-received concert right on Las Olas Boulevard and A1A, produced by the City of Fort Lauderdale and rAv Communications. EP played a “Salute to the 60s” at Ball & Chain April 26 – here’s their tribute set list, including a sweet version of the Joe Zawinul / Cannonball Adderley standard “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” and a raucous cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” featuring bassist Michael Mut on lead vocals.


In May, the band had pre-production meetings with Gary Pettigrew from Rush Media Studios regarding a concept video for the band’s next single “Cut Me Loose”, a collaborative effort with singer / songwriter Maco Monthervil. The director / editor Pettigrew began work on a story board and shot list, and would begin production shortly thereafter. EP also played Marlins Park on May 21 for the first time in a few years, during the themed “Super Hero Night”. Click here to listen to a clip of them doing the theme from “Batman”. A “Super Sounds of the 70s” concept reigned during the May 24 Piquete Sessions. The band covered Prince, The Doors, Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and more – check out full the playlist here.


June was a relatively quiet month, as the band only played one show live – Piquete Sessions “Funk Fest” on June 21 – and instead focused on finishing work on the audio recording for “Cut Me Loose” as well as video production.


July saw them return to Guanabanas on the 3rd, film live shots for the video at Ball & Chain July 25, and return the very next night for a “Made in the 80s” themed Piquete Sessions. EP covered rarities by Rick James, The Police, That Dazz Band, the great Michael Jackson and more. The band officially released “Cut Me Loose” and their Singles Collection on July 26, marking the first time the issued a song featuring a legitimate lead vocalist, and their first EP release since 2010’s self-titled debut.


In August, EP officially submitted for the 59th Annual Grammys, sending in cuts from their “Singles Collection” for six different categories: Contemporary Instrumental Album (Singles Collection), R&B Performance (“Cut Me Loose”), R&B Song (“Cut Me Loose”), Improvised Jazz Solo (“En La Playa Giron” – Chad Bernstein), Instrumental Composition (“De Cara al Sol”) and Best Remix (“Mother Smother – DJ Le Spam Remix”). Also this month, the band officially celebrated the release of “Cut Me Loose” during the Piquete Sessions date on the 23rd, although due to delays in production and a technical glitch, undaunted, the band played the song live to an unfinished version shown on the venue’s two large-screen TVs.


September was a great month for EP. They returned to the Pineapple Stage at Ball & Chain for the 2nd Annual Music Fest September 4, debuted at the UM Patio Jams series September 15, and officially released “Cut Me Loose” on September 23. They also played a show at their favorite watering hole Woody’s West End Tavern that same night, a “Latin Funk Night” heavy on improvisation.


October was a busy month for Electric Piquete. On the 1st, they played the charity event Relay For Life in Doral. EP closed their run of Piquete Sessions October 4 at Ball & Chain with a “Latin Funk Fest”. They also departed for their first-ever appearance at the Shakori Hills Festival of Music & Dance during  Hurricane Matthew’s side swipe of the Florida Peninsula October 7, playing the Cabaret Tent the night of the 8th and the Meadow Stage on the early afternoon of the 9th. Click here to read the full travelogue, and here to view a gallery of images.


On October 13, the Grammy ballots were released and the band’s submission for Improv Jazz Solo actually made the cut. Although the song wasn’t nominated, the fact that they appeared on the ballot is an important first step. The band was honored to celebrate the first anniversary of Noche Latina at Guanabanas on the 22nd, which is a monthly event hosted by the venue, produced by Roots Music, Inc. and promoted by the band’s management / p.r. company Mut Communications. They had the pleasure of playing the happy hour slot before the great Spam Allstars took over for the evening afterwards.


In November, EP debuted at Dunedin Brewery on Veteran’s Day, November 11, supported by a couple of super-subs: the great Damian J. Sanchez on saxes, flute and clarinet, and old friend / former regular percussionist Rey “Conga” Diaz. The next day, they played the happy hour slot at Guanabanas for another Noche Latina, this time supporting their friends The Baboons, who made their debut that evening. Here’s a hilarious video of Bob doing an impersonation of Morgan Freeman trying to describe what it’s like to be on tour with Rey. It’s worth that the horn section combo of Damian, Bob and band member Rich Dixon (trumpet) was absolutely incendiary on this trip.


Electric Piquete ended the year much as it began – with a live performance on Ball & Chain’s Pineapple Stage. This time, the band invited special guest singer Don Miguel Figueroa to lend his formidable vocal talents to a band standard, “Chan Chan”, as well as a new cover, “El Cuarto de Tula”. Don Miguel sang and danced his heart out, and the audience reacted in kind. They especially noticed the multitudes dancing and singing along to “Tula”.


The band is looking forward to a bigger and better 2017 and embraces the possibilities with open arms. Wishing you and your families a happy and healthy New Year!