Latin Jazz musicians believe in showing respect to the elders and originators of the music. This week we feature 95 year-old conga drum master Candido Camero, and we remember Cuban composer, arranger and bandleader Chico O’Farrill.
Best known by only his first name, Candido came to the US from Cuba in 1946. First working with pianist Billy Taylor, then with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, he expanded the use of Cuban percussion in jazz by using a three-drum combination and tuning the drums so that he could play melodies.
He became the best-known conguero in the US, even appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Jackie Gleason Show. He’s a 2008 NEA Jazz Master, a 2001 Latin Jazz USA Lifetime Acheivement Award winner, and was the first recipient of the Jazz Education Network’s LeJENd of Latin Jazz Award in 2014.
On November 18, Candido played his final performance. After 70 years in the business, he’s retiring. The send-off, “Candido: The Last Musical Journey,” was held at Aaron Davis Hall at City College Center for the Arts in New York, and featured Bobby Sanabria’s Multiverse Big Band, guitarist David Oquendo, and more. A fitting tribute to this Latin Jazz maestro.
Chico O’Farrill Returns Home
Composer, arranger and bandleader Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill left Cuba in 1948 to continue his classical music training at Juilliard. Benny Goodman hired him as an arranger, and Chico went on to be a pioneer of “Cubop“- a mixture of Cuban percussion with American be-bop.
His last visit to Cuba was in 1958, and in his later years he yearned to see his homeland. Chico died in 2001.
Chico’s son, Arturo O’Farrill will travel with his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to Cuba in mid-December to bury his father’s ashes in Havana’s Colon Cemetery, and to play a memorial concert at Havana’s Basilica de San Francisco.
Also, congratulations to Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for winning the Best Latin Jazz Album award at the Latin Grammys for their album “Cuba: The Conversation Continues.”
This week we feature music from some of the nominees for Best Latin Jazz Album for this year’s Latin Grammys. The awards show will be on November 17 in Las Vegas.
Brazilian pianist, composer and arranger Antonio Adolfo’s new CD Tropical Infinito augments his usual quintet with a horn section. “During the early 1960s – at age 17 to be exact, when I became a professional musician – most jazz recordings by the major artists included horns,” he says. “These albums influenced an entire generation of Brazilian jazz and bossa musicians. Only one or two music stores in Rio imported the newly released American jazz LPs and I remember scrambling to be the first to buy those albums. Then I would call my musician friends to come to my house to listen to Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, the Jazz Messengers, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Horace Silver, Oliver Nelson, and others, to learn the jazz vocabulary from the masters.”
Venezuelan trumpeter Raul Agraz moved to New York in the 1990s and has stayed busy working in Broadway shows and for TV and films. Between Brothers is his debut release, and it includes bossa novas, traditional Venezuelan and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and some swinging big band arrangements.
The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Led by pianist, composer, and director Arturo O’Farrill, the orchestra is the standard-bearer for creative interpretation of Latin jazz greats such as Tito Puente, Frank “Machito” Grillo, and Chico O’Farrill (Arturo’s father and founder of the orchestra), as well as the driving force behind new commissions from Latin music’s most talented composers and arrangers. Their latest release is Cuba: The Conversation Continues, recorded in Havana 48 hours after President Obama announced his plan to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
On this debut of the hour-long Jazz Caliente, I feature some music from Cuban pianist/composer Jorge Luis Pacheco. The wonderful folks joined me on the 88.5 Travel Club trip to Cuba in 2013 were amazed at this young man’s performance at the Havana jazz club La Zorra y El Cuervo. He’s performing in Bellingham on Sunday, in Olympia on Wednesday 11/9 and popping in to the Royal Room on Thursday 11/10 to join the show with the Entremundos Quarteto and the Brazilian drum and dance group VamoLá.
In other Jazz Caliente news, Latin Jazz and Salsa pianist, composer and bandleader Eddie Palmieri recently added another award to his already impressive collection: this year’s LeJENd (legend) of Latin Jazz Award from the Jazz Education Network (JEN). It will look great next to his 10 Grammy Awards, including the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording in 1975, and his 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award.
Clarinetist Anat Cohen’s transcendent appearances with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra last February are still resonating.
“I loved the trip to Seattle, loved meeting all the people there, the SRJO and other musicians, it was great time, and a wonderful hang,” she says. “Everybody there is so nice!”
Her latest CD “Luminosa” features a number of beautiful Brazilian melodies. Anat first encountered the varied styles of Brazilian music when she was a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I met some Brazilian musicians and they invited me to play in different shows with them, and I just fell in love with the music and the people, the whole culture and language. The language- everything about it sounded so mysterious and musical. Also, Brazilian people are very similar in their behavior to the Israeli people, very physical, similar expressions…I felt so comfortable. I wanted to be part of it and learn more about it, so I pursued it as much as I could, immersed myself in it for 15 years. I went to Brazil a bunch of times and learned the language. I fell in love with it.”
She’s always an exuberant player, but playing Brazilian music lifts her to higher level of joy. It’s something she’s started to recognize and think about.
“I wonder why it is, and how I can have this feeling everywhere, every time, in every musical situation and personal situation. It’s a challenge.”
Anat will be busy during this visit to Seattle for the Earshot Jazz Festival, starting with a recently added concert on November 9 at the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College of the Arts. She’ll be doing a master class at noon on November 10 at Cornish, then she’ll bring her quartet to KPLU for a live Studio Session at 2pm, and finally the second (sold out) Earshot Jazz Festival Concert at PONCHO Concert Hall at 8pm.
Listen for some music from Anat Cohen’s CD “Luminosa” on this week’s Jazz Caliente, Thursday at 2pm on KPLU!
Born and raised in Cadiz, this remarkable Spanish pianist recently moved his family to Seattle, adding a flamenco touch to our outstanding musical scene. “I have played in so many places around the world and in the USA, and for me, Seattle is one of the most wonderful cities. We are very happy to be here,” he says.
“I grew up in a poor family in the south of Spain, in Andalusia. It was hard, because I didn’t have an instrument, and I cried every year for a flamenco guitar. I finally got a guitar when I was eight years old, and I started playing the music of the city of Cadiz, where flamenco was born. So that was my first instrument. But when I was a teenager, I discovered the music of Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever, and I started to play keyboards and to transcribe from the records. They were my first jazz teachers.”
Chano was already a star in Europe when he made his appearance in Fernando Trueba’s 2001 film Calle 54, which introduced him to American audiences. He won a Latin Grammy for his part of the soundtrack for that movie, and his 2012 Blue Note recording Flamenco Sketches was Grammy nominated for Best Latin Jazz album.
“Flamenco Sketches was recorded in the Jazz Standard club in New York. It was a great experience for me to play the Miles Davis music I’d been listening to for 30 years, to play it in the way I like to play my own music, with the flamenco rhythms like bulería, soleá, tanguillo or tango, in the flavor of my childhood.”
His most recent recording is with flamenco guitarist Niño Josele. It’s a collection of melodic standards by Michel LeGrand, Henry Mancini and others “with the flamenco blend inside.” Another CD releasing soon is Chano with Europe’s premier big band, the WDR Big Band. Chano composed all new music for the band, and he’s very excited about the recording.
For his Earshot Jazz Festival première, he wants to “show the music I’m doing now as well as the music I’ve done in the last 30 years. So selections from my recordings from 1993 forward, selecting the songs that are most important to me.”
Chano is delighted to have talented Seattle musicians like bassist Jeff Johnson, percussionist Jose Martinez and saxophone master Hans Teuber in the band for this concert. “They understand my music very well,” he says. He’s also thrilled with the venue for the concert, the grand magical cabaret/circus tent of Teatro ZinZanni. “I love it!” And he let drop that there will be a surprise performance involving Chano’s son Pablo. I won’t say anymore…it’s a surprise, after all.
This concert will be recorded by Jim Wilke for a future Jazz Northwest program, which airs Sundays at 2pm on KPLU.
Listen for Chano’s music on Jazz Caliente this week, at 2pm on Thursday during KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz.
Hear the Chano Domínguez Quartet and more on Wednesday October 28 at Teatro ZinZanni, part of the 2015 Earshot Jazz Festival.
Edmar Castañeda plays the arpa llanera, a traditional folkloric instrument from Columbia and Venezuela. Classical harps have 46 or 47 strings, but the smaller llanera has only 32. That makes it lighter, swifter and somehow more versatile…at least it sounds like it in the hands of this master from Bogotá.
Edmar comes from a musical family, and at age 7 started folkloric dance classes along with his sister. The thing he liked best about the classes was the music, and the harp in particular. “As soon as I heard it, I knew I was born to play the harp!” he says. When he was 13, he was given an instrument by his aunt, after constantly asking her to let him come over and play hers. He’s been playing harp ever since.
When he moved to New York in the 1990s, he delighted in the multi-cultural blend of music he found there. He studied trumpet and discovered jazz, and then decided to make his harp an instrument of exploration: mixing jazz and music from around the world.
When I asked him if the llanera requires any special care or maintenance, he laughed. “Just play it! The harp gets sad if you don’t play it. If you play it all the time, it knows you love it.”
Castañeda has also designed a harp that’s being produced by the French harp builder, Camac. He’s proud of the finished product and the innovations that have been adopted to the traditional arpa llanera.
Edmar will be playing solo for his first appearance in Seattle, showcasing his original music with influences from Columbia, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and New York. The concert is Friday October 16 at the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College of the Arts. It’s part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.
Listen for Edmar Casteñeda’s music on Jazz Caliente this week, Thursday afternoon at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!
Here’s our periodic listing of Latin Jazz, Brazilian and Cuban music coming to Seattle, get out and enjoy!
Third Thursdays at Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club
Fred Hoadley’s Sonando
Fred Hoadley founded the Seattle-based Afro-Cuban jazz band, Sonando, whose 1994, 1998 & 2006 releases received critical acclaim throughout the country. Sonando received The Earshot Golden Ear Award for Best Acoustic Jazz Band of 2007, and was featured in a cover story in the November 2008 issue of Earshot Jazz Magazine. This is the real deal.
This Friday night May 8 at Tula’s
Jovino Santos Neto Quarteto
Master pianist, composer and arranger Jovino Santos Neto is among the top Brazilian musicians working today. “Joyous” is the word that comes to mind when you see him play. Just watch this, and if you don’t at least smile, please see your doctor:
This Friday night May 8 Ballard Jazz Festival Jazz Walk
Conor Byrne Pub 10:15pm and 11:30pm
Doug Beavers Sextet
Doug Beavers – trombone; Thomas Marriott – trumpet; Oscar Hernandez – piano; Joe Santiago – bass; Ricardo Guity – percussion
New York trombonist, composer and arranger Doug Beavers has performed and arranged for the likes of Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Eddie Palmieri, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Don Omar, Sheila E., Pete Escovedo, Ruben Blades and countless others. Make this your last stop on Friday night and you’ll be dancing all the way home.
This coming Tuesday and Wednesday, May 12 and 13:
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque
The name Maqueque is from an ancient Cuban dialect that means “the spirit of a young girl” –joyful exuberance and the celebration of life. This all-female group’s first recording won Canada’s 2015 Juno Award for Best Jazz Album (Group) of the year.
Tuesday through Saturday May 26-30
Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band
10x Grammy winner, NEA Jazz Master and Latin Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement recipient Eddie Palmieri is known as “The Sun of Latin Music” and is one of the finest Latin jazz pianists of the past 50 years.
Thursday June 11 through Sunday June 14
Mentored by jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, Cuban trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval is a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, 10x Grammy award winner and an Emmy award winner.
Thursday July 30 through Sunday August 2
Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band
Poncho and the band bring the party with their mix of Afro-Cuban, jazz and soul music. Mr. Sanchez was presented with the Legend of Latin Jazz (Keeper of the Flame) award by the Jazz Education Network earlier this year.
Two legends of Brazilian jazz together! Pianist Antonio Adolfo and harmonica master Hendrick Meurkens appear for an enchanting evening.
Paramount Theatre on October 2
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club: The Adios Tour
The remnants of los viejos (the elders) who ignited the Cuban music craze of the 1990s are making their final appearances in a world-wide tour. I predict this show will sell out!
Don’t forget to listen for Latin jazz on Jazz Caliente, Thursday afternoons at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!
Saxophonist Miguel Zenón has taken on some interesting projects in his career. He’s a founding member of the SF Jazz Collective, recipient of both a Guggenheim and a MacArthur fellowship, a Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador, and founder of Caravana Cultural, a program designed to bring free-of-charge jazz concerts and educational presentations to rural areas of Puerto Rico, involving both the best of New York’s jazz players and young Puerto Rican musicians. He’s bringing his quartet to the Earshot Jazz Festival on Monday November 10.
Zenón’s latest recording “Identities Are Changeable” (11/4/2014 Miel Music) is inspired by the idea of national identity as viewed or experienced by the Puerto Rican community in the United States, specifically in New York City.
“I conducted a series of interviews with various individuals, all of them New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent. And then I wrote music around the clips of those interviews,” says Zenón.
When interviewers (myself and others) point out that the music on the recording is not necessarily what most people think of as “Puerto Rican-style” music, he laughs.
“It’s not folkloric music, no. It’s original music, it has elements of jazz music and elements from other styles of music. But I kind of feel that, as a Puerto Rican musician, as a Latin American musician, it’s hard for me not to include parts of that. It’s part of what I am. It is Puerto Rican music, because I’m a Puerto Rican musician. And also the project is about Puerto Rico.”
The music for “Identities are Changeable” was originally written for his quartet. Zenón then expanded the arrangements for the big band which recorded the CD. It has been presented live with the big band, videos and excerpts from the interviews. But the quartet version still represents exactly what he wanted to do with this project, he says, and, of course, it’s easier to tour with 4 pieces rather than 16.
What he learned from this undertaking: “I had never done anything like this before. I had never worked with the multi-media elements, conducting interviews…it was all very new to me. Even writing for the big band was new to me. The whole thing was a gigantic learning experience, in every way.”
“In terms of the theme, the question ‘what does it mean to be Puerto Rican,’ I found that, like most people, I have some pre-conceived notions about national identity: you have to be born somewhere, you have to speak a certain language, you have to have connection to certain things— and that really changed after this project. I feel that my definition, if I have a definition, is a lot wider now.”
“The main thing I took away from the interviews and the question is that there’s really not one answer. I came to understand that it’s varied, depending on your personal experiences, it’s basically very personal. And even within one individual, your perception of what your identity is could change within your lifetime. That was the thing that was most refreshing to me, to see how varied it was, and to really be OK with that. There could be so many different points of view about it.”
Zenón was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so he sees his personal situation as different from that of his interviewees, who were all born in the US. But for his daughter, born in the US, he’s now thinking about how he wants her to be connected to the Puerto Rican identity.
“I’m excited to bring the quartet to Seattle, it’s one of my favorite places. And I love the Earshot Jazz Festival, I’ve been there many times before, it’s one of the greatest.”
Miguel Zenón Quartet plays at 8pm Monday night, November 10 at the PONCHO Concert Hall at the Cornish College of the Arts.
Guitarist Pablo Menéndez takes fusion to the next level. His band Mezcla (mixture) blends jazz, blues, rock and several styles of Cuban and African music into one raucous, joyous expression of life.
Menéndez is a U.S. Citizen who has lived in Cuba since he was 14. Offered an opportunity to attend the renowned National School of the Arts in Havana, he jumped at the chance. He was supposed to stay in Cuba for one year. It’s been nearly 48. We talked by phone last week. He’s charming and eloquent, and speaks his native English with a Cuban accent.
Pablo has never regretted his decision to stay in Cuba. Musicians and artists are revered there, and they are able to make a living, raise their families and have a successful artistic career. He’s been able to play the music he likes, to tour the world and to experiment, without commercial pressures. Pablo wishes for more and freer artistic exchanges between Cuba and the U.S.
“We’re neighbors and friends, and we have so much common culture and great music to share,” he says.
The recipe for Mezcla is based in Cuban roots music. Menendez knew that the early rock of the “British Invasion” was primarily electrified blues roots music, and he decided to try electrifying Cuban roots music. It was an exciting sound. Then, he realized that most of the musicians he worked with were also outstanding jazz players, so some jazz vernacular was added. The final essential ingredient comes from Africa, the rumba and Yoruba rhythms that define Afro Cuban music. It’s a heady mixture, indeed.
Current Mezcla band members include bassist Jose Hermida, multi-instrumentalist Julio Valdés, and two exceptional percussionists: Roberto “El Capitán” Smith and Octavio Rodríguez. The band had a very successful tour in the Pacific Northwest last year, and they’re delighted to be back. Do catch one or more of their shows this week:
I had a delightful telephone chat last week with Juan de Marcos, leader of the Afro Cuban All Stars.
Known as the “Quincy Jones of Cuba,” Juan de Marcos comes from a family of musicians. His father was a well-known singer with famed tres player and bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez, and his uncle, Ruben Gonzalez, was one of Cuba’s most beloved pianists. Juan grew up with some of the finest Cuban musicians visiting and playing music in his home.
Always an active musician himself, de Marcos pursued degrees in engineering and obtained a PhD in Sciences. After he finished that, he decided to return to music full-time. After all, it’s in his blood.
One of de Marcos’ first bands, Sierra Maestra, presented traditional Cuban sounds re-arranged for a new generation. They were immensely popular, and became the basis for the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon.
Juan’s idea to gather “los viejos” (the old guys) of his father’s era to perform authentic Cuban music for the world to enjoy started as a recording project. He wrote music, did the arrangements and conducted the band, and the intent was simply to record a couple of albums. They ended up with three: The Afro Cuban All Stars’ A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, The Buena Vista Social Club, and Introducing Ruben Gonzalez.
In the 1990s, the Buena Vista Social Club recordings hit big in Europe first, then took the US by storm. World tours followed. BVSC members enjoyed rock-star status all over the globe.
By 2005, the Afro Cuban All Stars had evolved into a band that plays a broad range of Cuban musical styles, and that features not only the prodigious senior talent of Cuba, but also promotes some of Cuba’s best and brightest young musicians. Included in the latter category are de Marcos’ two very talented daughters, Laura Lydia Gonzalez (clarinets) and Gliceria Gonzalez (vibes and keyboads). His wife and business partner Gliceria Abreu plays percussion with the band as well.
de Marcos has homes in Havana and in Mexico City, but he says he’ll be spending more time in the US. His daughters are attending Howard University, and he feels the need to be the typical Cuban father, looking after his unmarried girls.
Despite the drastic changes in the music industry since the Buena Vista Social Club days, Juan de Marcos is excited to be releasing three new CDs in the near future, one of which will feature his own original compositions.
He loves coming to Seattle’s Jazz Alley and is happy to once again take us on a journey through Cuban music, Afro Cuban All Stars style.
Juan de Marcos and the Afro Cuban All Stars play Jazz Alley tonight, June 5 through Sunday June 8.
Listen for some music from the Afro Cuban All Stars CD Distinto, diferente today at 2pm on Jazz Caliente, part of KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!
Here’s their marvelous performance on KPLU/KCTS from last year: