Best Salsa Club

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
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Sexto Sol bids farewell to Salute, SA's sweetest corner

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SA will never be the same: Azeneth Domínguez in a still from the film 'Recuerdo', by Vincent Valdez.

It's ironic that the very first time Sexto Sol guitarist Eddie Hernández heard about Saluté he was on the Limelight's patio across the street. Limelight owner Casey Lange is the person who bought the strip where Saluté is located, possibly to convert it into a restaurant. But in the early '90s, Hernández was playing at Limelight with his band Sun*Day and had no idea of that little place in the corner of North St. Mary's and East Russell. During a break between sets, he heard blues coming from across the street.

"I walked in [Saluté] and ordered a beer," Hernández recalled. "I thought, 'Wow, what great sounds!' I'm pretty sure it was the late-great Randy Garibay playing. I was blown away by the cool vibe there, the colorful little room, the nice lady at the bar and, of course, the music."

We knew the last day of Saluté was coming, but now that the day is here — July 21, to be exact — it's hard to process. Yet, Azeneth Domínguez, "the nice lady at the bar" who has run the place for 25 years, is ready to call it quits. Even if given the opportunity to continue, recent health issues require rest.

"It will be sad, but I am very, very proud to have helped so many groups at Saluté for all the many years that we've been there," Domínguez told the Current. "I had a bit of a hard time on Sunday [July 8th's final early show with Pop Pistol, Langton Drive, and others] with seeing so many people I hadn't seen in so long. So the Sexto Sol show will be happy and sad at the same time."

This is the time when we all get sentimental about Saluté, when we remember the great shows we attended there and how the great Esteban Jordan, for the last two years of his life, played there every Friday. Yet, the sad truth is that Jordan himself often had to play to an empty house. I still remember the couple of occasions when only five or six people saw El Parche at Saluté, and that was counting Domínguez and myself.

"People didn't start going out to see Esteban until they heard he was dying," Domínguez said. "That was a very hurtful thing not only for himself but for me. That sad attitude of, 'Wow, we are going to see him one last time!,' when he was there for so many years and it was kind of an empty house. I think both Esteban and Saluté were taken for granted."

The extreme contrast of super-packed shows and empty houses prompted Flaco Jiménez to tell Domínguez, "I don't know how you managed to keep this place going for so many years."

How did she do it?

"Not wanting very much," she said. "Just putting all my money back into Saluté. Gracias a Dios, my house on the Westside is already paid for and I don't have that desire for material things like I used to when I was a young person."

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