Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 13 09:19:41 PST 2004

NOT OKOM. Perhaps  MKOM for a few other list mates especially Latin
America and Spain.  An example of the where the "Spanish tinge" in jazz
is headed and the influence of Lincoln Center in NYC. Afro-Latin Jazz,
another segment in this broad musical genre.

Love it or hate it, Lincoln Center is, arguably, the number one
influence in Jazz today.

Steve Barbone

March 13, 2004 - New York Times


Taking Off From Tito Puente

   It's great to see an idea seized upon and made even better than it
might have been. Thursday night's concert at Alice Tully Hall offered
further proof that Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, now in
its second year, is on the right course.

The band, led by the pianist Arturo O'Farrill, follows essentially the
same guidelines as the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra: it puts great
works before the public and plays them well. It's also creating a canon
as it goes along, which in Latin music is not so much a thorny issue as
a novelty; this canon looks wide and inclusive from the outset.

The orchestra is commissioning new works, at this point mostly from its
own members, but the scope will surely expand. And the enterprise has an
intellectual base that should end up enlarging most people's idea of
what Latin jazz is.

To start and finish Thursday's concert, the 18-piece orchestra went
straight to the epitome of Latin jazz in the popular imagination: three
old pieces from the 1950's by Tito Puente. They were "Mambo Birdland,"
"Picadillo" and "Ti Mon Bo," and the musicians played this orchestral
mambo as if they owned it, adding and subtracting dynamics as if moving
around blocks of sound. With an elegant and nicely audible mixture of
percussion from trap drums (played by Phoenix Rivera), conga (Milton
Cardona) and bongo (Joe Gonzalez), the montuno sections had imposing
power. The soloists were superb, including the trombonist Noah Bless and
the alto saxophonist Erica Von Kleist, who used repetitive single-note
figures in "Mambo Birdland" to drive up the tension of the clave rhythm.

The best music of the night was in a commission from the trombonist Papo
Vazquez, who has realized a modern orchestral jazz that incorporates the
bomba and plena rhythms of traditional Puerto Rican music. His piece,
"Iron Jungle," with Roberto Cepeda as a guest percussionist on the bomba
drum, was relentlessly fast and driving. It was like a thicket of
percussion, with Mr. O'Farrill's fourths on the piano and his own
jabbing trombone lines as added percussive elements. The piece ended
with a sense of concision. It was ferociously alive and resisted the
common tendency of commissioned pieces to be overstudied or contrived.

Paquito D'Rivera gave off a lovely clarinet sound, even and strong and
soft, on his "I Remember Dizzy," a tune shifting between Latin rhythm
and four-four swing. The group also played his "Samba for Carmen" and "A
Lo Tristano," but all three used a little too much precise homage in the
game of combining Latin and jazz music. ("A Lo Tristano" was diverting:
Mr. D'Rivera and Mario Rivera on alto and tenor saxophones effortlessly
replicated the sounds of two fast saxophone lines melting into each
other on the old Lennie Tristano records.)

And there was a commissioned work by Mr. O'Farrill, an elegiac piece
called "So Much Love," dedicated to the saxophonist Sam Furnace, who
died in January. It had a long, brooding introduction with brass
fanfares and ended before it got much of a chance to develop.

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