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The Latin Jazz Coalition & Conjunto Katharis: Flushing, NY December 10, 2010

Ernest Barteldes By

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Latin Jazz Coalition / Conjunto Kalhari
December 10, 2010
Flushing Town Hall
Flushing, NY

Under the leadership of trombonist/percussionist Demetrios Kastaris, the 12-piece Latin Jazz Coalition kicked off the proceedings at Flushing Town Hall with a selection of covers and original Afro-Cuban material that was very open to improvisation. All band members had an opportunity to showcase their individual talents, and during the second number, both Kastaris and second trombonist Noah Bless wandered into the audience, New Orleans-style, as they both soloed freely.

On the third number, special guest Steve Turre joined the ensemble for an instrumental number that also featured a lengthy solo from tenor saxophonist Melvin Smith. During the same tune, Turré and Kastaris did a duet of sorts, playing on different conch shells, and drawing lots of applause from the near-filled room.

The group was further augmented by trumpeter Yannis Economides (who flew from Greece to New York solely for this event), and after introductions were made Latin Jazz Coalition, went into the trumpeter's "Midnight In Cartagena, " an up-tempo number that served to showcase percussionists Angel Rodriguez (congas), Willie Martinez, Jr. (drums) and Ramon Tineo (bongos).

The musical direction briefly changed, when young bouzouki player Theofilos Katechis stepped on the stage to perform a handful of Greek folk songs—one of them as a solo piece, where he demonstrated his great speed and skill.

After a brief intermission, the Gospel Salsa ensemble Conjunto Kathari began its debut performance (also under the leadership of Kastaris) with a devotional Latin number. It was immediately clear that the group had been hastily put together: the vocalists were often out of tune, and the three-trombone brass section (Dr. Terry Greene II, David Russell and Ray Campos) sounded as if it had not yet developed very good chemistry; the microphones did not seem to be properly adjusted either, which only made things worse. The group plodded on with a meringue-inspired number that featured all the singers, and a slower, English-language number, with vocalist Carmen Bryant on lead.

After that short set, the two ensembles—twenty musicians in all, plus assorted audience members with tambourines—came onstage for the grand finale. The music sounded quite tight, but due to time constraints there were few solos; still, it was nevertheless a very satisfying way to end the evening.

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