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Get up and get moving at weekend Arts Council concert
Lillian and Rene Herrera play danceable, Latin music in their band, Havana Son.


Havana Son performs "Negras"

Gainesville, put your dancin’ shoes on.

At least, that’s the message Havana Son wants to spread before their debut Saturday night at the next Evenings of Intimate Jazz series.

The Atlanta-based duo specializes in fun, danceable rhythms from Latin America that get your blood pumping and your toes tapping.

"In many of my performances, I actually teach Latin dance, (telling the audience) ‘OK, here’s what we’re gonna do,’" said Lillian Herrera, who provides vocals for the group. "I’m sure there will be someone who decides, ‘Hey, I’m gonna get up and move a little bit.’"

Her first priority when it came to the performance space, she said, was having enough room for people to get up and move around. In a recent conversation with officials from The Arts Council, she said one of her questions was how much of a dance space there would be.

"I was like, ‘Would you be opposed to me showing a few dance steps?’ So I’m hoping to get some adventurous souls out there that go with the idea that they’re gonna be listening to Latin jazz music," she said. "And if they’re so moved to stand up and dance, it would make my life just so much easier."

Lillian and her husband, Rene Herrera, both have family ties to Cuba — Lillian’s parents were born there, and Rene served for 20 years as the first trombone in the Cuban National Symphony and has been in the United States for 13 years.

Lillian, who studied opera in college, now practices a more casual style of music. In fact, she said much of her formal opera training had to be lost when she began singing Latin music.

"I had to unlearn everything from the opera training. They said, ‘No, you sound too much like a classically trained singer, roughen it up a little bit.’ But there are tricks that help with the stamina, when you have lots of performances," Lillian said.

Originally part of a nine-piece band, the duo have since downsized and now play with a track for the horns and percussion. Rene plays piano, guitar of a Cuban banjo called a tres during the shows, too. Their music is reminiscent of warm beaches and ocean breezes — hot, fun and full of the Caribbean sun.

"It’s more about having a good time and sort of taking a little peek into what typical Latin jazz music would be like," Lillian said. "I’m hoping they serve margaritas or something; if not you can always tell everyone, bring your own bottle of wine."