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Latin Jazz Night at the Hollywood Bowl

Jim Santella By

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Jazz At Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
Los Hombres Calientes
Willie Colon
The Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood, California
August 11, 2004

Latin Jazz Night at the Hollywood Bowl this year was filled with traditional influences from South and Central American countries; as well as the kind of hip, contemporary music that makes you want to get up and dance the night away.

The centerpiece of the first set was Chico O'Farrill's "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite." Conducted by Arturo O'Farrill, Jazz At Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra performed the creative piece with precision. Featuring sensitive solos by trumpeters John Walsh and Philip Michael Mossman, alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli, trombonist Arturo Velasco, and trumpeter Jim Seeley, the band's interpretation sampled the various moods set forth by its composer 50 years ago. Through the music they rocked along festive streets with a powerful beat, and they also swept dreamily through forest-shaded pathways. A tenor battle between Mario Rivera and Ivan Renta on the up-tempo "Wild Jungle," and a hot Porcelli alto solo on "Para los Rumberos" sparked a session that returned our full attention to the capacity that Latin jazz holds for serious students of the genre.

Los Hombres Calientes forged their set from a combination of traditional Latin jazz, African roots, and the myriad flavors of New Orleans culture. Led by trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and percussionist Bill Summers, the ensemble performed pieces from their four recent CD volumes and DVD. "Voudou Hoodoo Babalu" warmed up the crowd, then "Foforo Fo Firi" carried them away. Summers' interaction with the Bowl audience had them loose and relaxed. The venue's four, giant closed-circuit television screens brought close-ups from many angles. Mayfield's trumpet intensity, always a pleasure to watch, moved the band through a series of rhythm-packed adventures. "Brazilian Sugar," "Creole Groove," "Africa" and "Night in Tunisia" rocked the house with authentic roots and a New Orleans confluence.

Willie Colon was hailed as "the King of Salsa," as he appeared with trombone in hand to lead his contemporary, 8-piece band in a program that had much of the audience dancing in the aisles. Cha cha cha, mambo, and other popular dances gave the evening an enjoyable ending lift. In a Coltrane-inspired tenor saxophone soliloguy, Bobby Franceschini was urged onward and upward before the band joined him in a majestic Spanish appeal. Colon wowed the audience with his personable vocals, which left a memorable impression.

The evening's only sour note came from the Bowl's supporting cast. The cameraperson providing close-ups for solo excursions was consistently late in picking up the action. Riveting soloists from each of these three ensembles were deep into their improvised soliloquies before the cameraperson recognized them. Los Hombres Calientes bassist Edwin Livingston, for example, had already completed his detailed solo spot before the camera was turned in his direction. Three fine Afro-Latin jazz bands such as this deserve nothing less than the best in support.

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