Afro: Baile Records' Brazil: Sambossica CD Release Party at Maria Maria, Saturday, November 1

By Niki D'Andrea

Famous musicians love openings restaurants in the Valley. Of course, Alice Cooper got a jump on everybody else with his rock-n-jock eatery, Alice Cooper'stown, but new dining digs from Jimmy Buffet (Margaritaville at Westgate) and Carlos Santana are also looking to titillate both taste buds and tympanic membranes alike.

Santana's restaurant is called Maria Maria, and it's located in a bustling corner of the sprawling Tempe Marketplace, right by the fountains and outdoor fireplace.

I had the pleasure of interviewing both Carlos Santana and his wife, Deborah, for a music feature in Phoenix New Times ("Reality Check," October 6, 2005), and I was hoping the food at Maria Maria would be as kind to me as the Santanas had been.

But I'm not a food critic (for some informed and entertaining culinary musings, check out our "Chow Bella" blog). The main reason I hit up Maria Maria on Saturday, November 1, was because local label Afro:Baile Records was holding its Brazil: Sambossica CD release party.

The brainchild of local world music enthusiast DJ Seduce, Afro:Baile Records' catalog brims with global beats, from sambas and forro to funk and jazz fusion. The overall vibe is one of laid-back goodness, and Maria Maria provided a perfectly chill setting for Seduce's rich soundscapes. In-between Seduce's sets at the turntables, local group Banda Som Brazil played palatable samba-jazz tunes, and Phoenix jewelry vendor Voce Linda sold its colorful wares from a booth near the stage.

DJ Seduce works the turntables at Maria Maria.

DJ Seduce says Banda Som Brazil recently played at his wedding. "We're keeping it cool for the dinner crowd," he told me early in the night, "but I'm gonna bust out with some sambas and Brazilian funk and hopefully get people up and moving."

That was a tall order, considering most of the crowd packed into Maria Maria consisted of couples and families, and everybody was full of the restaurant's rich, spicy food and beer. I myself was laid to waste by the vegetarian enchiladas, which were packed full of green bell peppers, mushrooms, sweet onions, and cheese.

Banda Som Brazil gently rocked the dinner crowd.

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Overall, it was a relaxing (and filling!) evening, the kind of night out perfect for romancing a date and hearing some world music. But if you plan to hit Maria Maria for dinner on a weekend, be advised that the wait for a table is about 35 minutes. Good thing there's plenty of music to entertain you while you wait.

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