Ozomatli’s sax player selects the right course, makes it back to Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Ozomatli’s sax player selects the right course, makes it back to Tahoe

Ozomatli is the quintessential Los Angeles band. It plays the South Shore Room on Saturday.

Ozomatli’s sound is all over the map, and fortunately for Tahoe, the band’s GPS often points to Tahoe. The seven-piece group has played both major North Shore casinos, along with MontBleu and, this Saturday, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. The music is a blend of Latin, hip-hop, funk, jazz and reggae. Founding member and saxophone player Ulises Bella spoke with Lake Tahoe Action:

Q When you joined Ozomatli, did you think it would become this successful and last more than 15 years?

A I went on leave from college but never went back. At the time I never realized this band was going to be the band. Once you’re caught up in the momentum of it, and you see how much the music resonates with the audience and the public, I took an express train to this band and it sent my life on this particular course.

Q You’re probably not a millionaire but you are doing something fun. You must be happy.

A I’m not rolling in a Benzo and I’m not in a jet but I do what I love and that’s more than what I can say for maybe 75 percent of my musician friends. It’s a hustle out there and I know so many amazing musicians who are just doing something else. You have to stand apart. You’ve go to work on your showmanship, your skills. For me it’s a blessing to be in a band and be able to put beans on the table. In the end, I’m not laying bricks or dealing with a (messed) up boss.

Q The Ozomatli sound really represents Los Angeles, doesn’t it?

A It correlates with the ethnic makeup of what is Los Angeles. For sure New York, London, Chicago, San Francisco, a lot of cities around the world have their own melting pot but I think the Los Angeles one is unique. I think we grew out of all the different populations that exist here in L.A. Some of these communities, the Armenian or Thai, for example, the largest communities outside of their native counties is Los Angeles. It’s a very cosmopolitan city that is old and new at the same time and full of contradiction, obviously. I was born and raised here. I’m a first generation immigrant.

Q For a native, it must be great to be invited to this June’s Playboy Jazz Festival in the Hollywood Bowl.

A This is our fourth or fifth Playboy Jazz Festival and maybe our seventh or eighth time playing in the Hollywood Bowl. It’s always a big, big deal for me. In high school I used to volunteer as an usher just to see shows. It’s quite a mind (duck).

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