The Jazz.com Blog
June 02, 2008 · 2 comments
Recent reviews in this space have covered jazz happenings in Norway, Estonia, Ireland, Brooklyn, Germany, New Orleans, and Queens, among other exotic locales. Now jazz.com's Tomas Peña offers his first-hand account of the Heineken JazzFest in Puerto Rico. Below is his report on day one of the festival. T.G.
DAY 1 – ANDY GONZALEZ AND RUMBAJAZZ
Rumbajazz is the brainchild of Jerry and Andy Gonzalez. At its core, the group was created as a vehicle for the Fort Apache Band and Cuban tenor saxophonist (and violinist) Jose “Chombo” Silva. Alas, Chombo’s passing forced the group to alter the concept and led to the making of Rumbajazz: Tribute to Chombo Silva, where the Gonzalez brothers teamed up with saxophonist David Sanchez (who sat in for Chombo), percussionists Anthony Carrillo, Angel Cachete Maldonado, and vocalist Jerry Medina among others. The group’s repertoire drew on tunes commonly associated with Silva, such as “Guajira at the Blackhawk,” “Perfidia” and “Perdido,” as well as “Trio Puerto Rico” and “Blues for Chombo,” sleek post-bop tunes with a touch of rumba.
Though smaller than its predecessor, the new incarnation of Rumbajazz, led by bassist Andy Gonzalez is no less adventurous. Case in point, the band's repertoire ranged from the breezy sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim to rumba inspired by Beethoven! Andy, along with pianist Luis Perdomo, percussionist Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez, saxophonist Ivan Rentas and drummer Jimmy Rivera form a tight unit who are not shy when it comes to strutting their stuff. There were a number of special moments that stood out: Ricardo Davila’s soulful violin solo on “Para Ti,” as well as a scorching version of “Little Sunflower” featuring special invited guest, Jerry Gonzalez. Without question, Pedrito Martinez deserves special mention for his polyrhythmic wizardry. In short, Rumbajazz was the perfect vehicle for kicking off the festival.
Next the Dave Valenin Quintet burst onto the stage with exuberance! In fact, I got so caught up in the momentum that I neglected to take notes. No matter, what’s important is the chemistry between the band members: flautist Dave Valentin, pianist Bill O’Connell, bass player Ruben Rodriguez, percussionist Ritchie Flores and drummer Robbie Ameen. But never fear, the repertoire can be be heard on Triple Play (Savant Records), a recently released, take-no-prisoners collaboration between Valentin, O’Connell and Flores.
One of the ongoing “missions” of the Festival is to build on its association with The Berklee College of Music in promoting jazz and nurturing new talent. With that in mind, Dave Valentin presented a group of young (and I do mean young), up-and-coming flute players, ranging in age from eight to sixteen, who dared to trade licks with Valentin on Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” Suffice it to say each student was more amazing than the last. And if that weren’t enough, percussionists Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez and Paoli Mejias joined in the festivities for a descarga (jam session) that shook The Tito Puente Amphitheater to its core!
On another note, Charlie Sepulveda and the Turnaround celebrated the release of their new self-titled release at the world famous Viera Disco (La Casa de Coleccionista) in Santurce.
Stand by for an update on Day 2, when saxophonist Marco Pignatero and Jazz Set, the Ahmad Jamal Quintet and Jerry Gonzalez y Los Piratas del Flamenco are scheduled to grace the stage.
This blog entry posted by Tomas Peña.