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Willie McNeil



Sono-Lux means light and sound in Latin. This energetic formation combines salsa, funk, Cuban folkloric music and timba. The bilingual nature of the band crosses over from Cuban style Salsa to American influenced Soul to unite all dancers in joyful celebration.

Sono-Lux is a prominent house band at the new King King club in Hollywood. They've played there every Tuesday night for close to 6 years and have developed quite a scene. Typically, the second set opens up into the only weekly Descarga (Cuban style jam session) in LA. Many famous musicians enjoy dropping by to sit in or sometimes just dance and listen.

Sono-Lux's line-up can vary from nine pieces to five in order to accommodate particular requirements. They are also very versatile in their repertoire and have found their niche playing parties where the Salsa and Latin styles, but also American music are desired.

Sono-Lux was founded and is directed by drummer extraordinaire Willie McNeil. His international experience as a professional musician at a world-class level has proven extremely valuable in the creation of this hot and dynamic combo.

The Best of LA: Dancing

For those of us more chronologically endowed, King King is the place to bust a move. The musicians' hangouot draws a cool but unpretentious crowd with its live music. The house band, Sono-Lux, cooks up Afro-Cuban jazz that seriously sizzles, and with free salsa classes at 9 on Tuesdays, there's just no reason not to partake.

A Night At King King: It's Royally Rhythmic
Multicultural jams with an Afro-Cuban core emerge Tuesdays in Hollywood
Los Angeles Times

The life of the party is band leader Willie McNeil, a Kansas native who studied music in Cuba and has played drums and piano and recorded music in Los Angeles for 23 years. McNeil, also the percussionist for the Forty Deuce Trio, says the King King gig is the 'biggest love' for his ensemble, which includes talents such as lead vocalist Luca Brandoli, a bata drum specialist and akpwon (a singer who calls down the deities of Santeria); jazz based folk musician and multi-instrumentalist Mike Bolger, and world-renowned percussionist Joey DeLeon. "This music just crept up on me," said McNeil, who has so much salsa in his soul that he even sounds a little Cuban when he addresses the crowd in Spanish. "As a percussionist, and not being Cuban or Puerto Rican, I don't get many calls for work to play Latin music so I decided to form my own band. I wanted to play salsa with a funky flavor that combined modern Cuban music, timba and American funk elements.

Latin Beat Magazine

McNeil conceived the first incarnation of Sono-Lux in the music incubator known as Hollywood's King King Club, in the Tuesday nights melting pot currently known as "Descarga con Timba". Sono-Lux, which means light and sound in Latin, has become an underground phenom known for its fusion of numerous rhythms and musical styles, McNeil describes the blend as Parliment/Funkadelic meets Irakere meets Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. The eleven-piece ensemble combines Afro-Cuban, Latin soul, R&B, folkloric and modern Cuban and Caribbean styles to generate exuberant listening and dancing music. Typically, the second set opens up into a jam session, which prompts musicians from all walks to drop in and play for a while with the band.

Latin Vibe Magazine
Grupo Sono-Lux, Mulata Loca

Willie's regular band is Sono-Lux, a West Coast-based Latin dance outfit that rocks out in several directions: title track is a timba that would give any of the top Cuban timba outfits a run for their scratch, whilst 'Do Ya Feel It?' is that rare beast, a successful fusion of salsa and funk. Then there are a couple of straight 'old-school salsa dura compositions, a reggaeton, a great bembe version of the Stevie W. Classic 'Higher Ground', and a nod towards on of Willie's inspirations, the Cuban band Irakere, with 'Irakere's Funk' - described aptly as a 'funk-bata'. This is a top rung Afro-Cuban party show band, firing V8 and fully-loaded, with that easy, unforced approach that years of live stage work brings to a group's music.

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