I had just finished dinner with some friends in Ka’anapali. But oh, what were we to do next? The cool night air encouraged something exciting. We grabbed a paper and sat down on a bench to peruse that evening’s event listings. Some things were too far, some too familiar, but then the words “Joe Cano at Paradice Bluz” jumped from the page. And we were off.
Descending the stairs into the smoky, dark club, we passed the candles, bricks and leather that make everything feel sexy there. And then there was this great music—beautiful Spanish beats that stole my attention. I took a seat on the black leather couch in front of the stage and cuddled up with my gin and tonic so I could better take in the sounds streaming before me.
The six-man band included Cano and his guitar, a bassist, keyboard player, percussionist, backup singer and guest conga player. They complemented each other beautifully and created a sound rich in diversity and cultural fusion. It was relaxing and stirring all at the same time.
I sat back and watched people dance to a cover of Santana’s “Maria, Maria.” Some of them were graceful, some delightfully awkward, but that was irrelevant. After the show I asked Cano how he felt after such an inspiring set. He was down-to-earth and to the point.
“Great, awesome,” he said.
At first, I thought this brief encounter told me all I needed to know about his Spanish rock with a little island folksiness. But actually, it’s Cano’s diversity that grants him so much acclaim. He’s capable of anything from polka, country, reggae and salsa.
When I spoke to him last week he told me about another sound sensation he’s working on: “Slack-enco.” He described it as a mix of slack key guitar and flamenco. He says it will bring together his passion for island music and Latin beats.
Where did this Joe Cano come from and why hadn’t I seen him sooner? Well, it’s no fault of his. He’s been on Maui for a while now—since 1979 to be exact—but he was born in San Antonio, Texas. His father, Jose Cano, was also a guitar player and one of the pioneers of Tex-Mex music—a style blending traditional Mexican with American music, giving a voice to border cultures. Jose taught Joe how to play, eventually grooming him into a world-renowned musician.
Cano was sitting in on his father’s band practice by the time he was seven. As a teen he was playing with Jorge Santana. He started his first band while still in junior high. Its name, “Grito” (The Scream), purely captures every artist’s desire to be heard.
And heard he was. His legendary talent allowed Cano to perform with musicians like Al Di Meola, Tom Scott, Sheila E., George Benson and Willie K., all of whom played a role in giving him the complex sound that pulls from many backgrounds.
Diversifying Maui’s music scene is something we can all be grateful for. Not that I don’t love Marty Monday at the Hard Rock, Tuesday techno at Hapa’s or the nightly Jimmy Buffett covers on every street corner in Lahaina. But Cano sprinkles jazz in the moonlight and polka on the palms. He smears the cultures of his crowd into a big beautiful mess.
The night we experienced his culture-smeared “Slackenco” was great. Cano will be touring Europe for a couple months, but keep an eye out for his return. Despite his busy schedule, Cano still enjoys what he does.
“Playing my music relieves stress,” he said. “I love to play for my girlfriend.”
I bet she loves it, too. I know I did. MTW