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1st Marine Division

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Willie Ellerbrock

Latin-Jazz rhythm rocks Marines, sailors and soldiers in Iraq

28 Aug 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Willie Ellerbrock

Despite the hot weather, and the band’s lead singer being administered intra-venous fluids to counter dehydration, the soulful ballads, Latin rhythms, and hot dance grooves that made up the high-energy concert held here made it the coolest place to be on a Friday night.

The Los Angeles based band Soto, performed for the troops live here on Aug. 12 as part of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program.

The Latin Jazz concert was open to the entire camp.

“We (service members) must thank MWR for doing this. It was nice to have a diverse crowd enjoying the music,” said Navy Lt. Wilfredo Rodriguez, from New Brunswick, N.J., the chaplain for the base’s Surgical Shock Trauma and Personnel Recovery Platoons.

Getting the audience warmed up before Soto took the stage was a solo acoustic guitar performance by Staff Sgt. Homero Escandon Jr., a 27-year-old, currently assigned to Supply Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd).

Escandon entertained the crowd while playing soft rock melodies and Spanish Ballads. 

He stated that he has been a singer since he was a boy, performing mostly in church.

According to Escandon, his musical inspiration stems from contemporary, soft and alternative rock artists. 

On the Spanish side of his music, he is mostly influenced by Mexican folk-artists like Vicente Fernandez, concluded Escandon.

“It felt great to perform, I am an entertainer at heart and I am glad I was able to provide relief and relaxation from the everyday norm we (service members) face here,” said Escandon, a native from Mercedes, Texas.

The band Soto is made up of lead singer Stephanie Alvarado, bassist and co-founder Artie Soto, drummer Joe Mendez, percussionist Lorena Martel, keyboard player Joey Guerra and lead guitarist and co-founder Bruce Soto.

The group toured the region playing at a total of nine bases.

The band has performed on concert tours with groups such as Earth Wind and Fire, James Brown, Tito Puente, Whitney Houston and Marc Anthony.  They were also the first Latin American band to perform in Beijing China ,said Bruce Soto. 

The idea behind doing military tours came to the band after the Terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Having been introduced to music at a young age by their older brother Sunny Soto, a former Marine and a Vietnam veteran; Bruce and Artie Soto decided to do their part for the service members defending our freedoms and perform for the military members abroad.

”I just want all the Marines and soldiers here to know that we appreciate them keeping us free and provide a little happiness and joy to them for at least that hour,” said Bruce Soto.

From the time the band took the stage until they finished, the audience was on their feet cheering, dancing and singing along.

”The concert was awesome and the crowd was incredible, a total morale booster, I really enjoyed their (Soto) dancing,” said Lance Cpl. Mary Carnes, 21, from Fort Wayne, Ind., Headquarters Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd).

As soon as the Latin sounds of salsa and meringue were heard, some of audience members put on a dancing display like a scene out of a Miami Beach night club.

“It felt good (to dance), it was nice to have variety in the songs, and it was a great for morale,” said army Sgt. Sally Perez, 23, from Carolina, Puerto Rico assigned to Bravo Detachment, Financial Management Company, 82nd Airborne Division, here.

After the band was done playing, and the sun had set, many service members stayed around to meet the group members and receive a complimentary compact disc and autographed pictures.

The concert was seen as a success, as shown by the more than seven hundred attendees who came to enjoy the outdoor bash.
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