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Victor Rendón & Bronx Conexión Latin-Jazz Big Band: True Flight

James Nadal By

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Latin music has been popular in New York City since the beginning of the twentieth century. The post-war migration of Hispanics into Spanish Harlem and the Bronx brought about a major cultural shift in the area, music being an essential element, and with that came a plethora of clubs and dance venues. The orchestras of Machito, Mario Bauza and Tito Puente, synonymous with the era, set the standard for the Latin music that endures today. Victor Rendón & Bronx Conexión Latin-Jazz Big Band expand on this tradition with True Flight, adding the jazz elements of harmony and improvisation to a stimulating set of complex arrangements.

Rendón is the director, as well as the timbalero. He formed the ensemble in 2012 initially as a rehearsal band at Lehman College, where he is a percussion educator, and it has grown into a full blown twenty- piece orchestra capable of raising the roof. This music was primarily intended for dancing, and the title track gets things moving with a mambo concoction spiced up with tinges of Cuban timba. The band further adheres to the mambo format on "Generoso," composed by trombonist Rick Faulkner, who allows himself room for stretching out before the dazzling piano of Joe Mannozzi brings the band back around. "Café Sin Leche," is a Rendón original featuring trumpeter Claudio Roditi, Karl Watson on the baritone sax, and a sizzling timbale flourish by Rendón. The swinging continues on "Oriente," where flutist Jessica Valiente invokes an authentic charanga flavor. Percussive virtuosity dominates "Lagos," performed in a Cuban bembé pattern, represented with batá drums in the guiro style, paying homage to its African origin.

Tenor man Joe Stelluti takes over the solo spot on the Santana masterpiece "Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile), delivered in a steamy bolero mode, to calm things down. "Buena Gente," is a fast paced jazz excursion where veteran sax man Lew Tabackin adds his finesse amidst a rhythmic whirlwind. Percussionist Cascadú is the vocalist on the samba cadenced "Island Woman," and returns on Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry," adapted into an Afro-Peruvian landó incantation, with Yasuyo Kimura on cajon.

The Bronx Conexión is a throwback to the big dance bands of yesteryear. They have a regular running gig at the famed Nuyorican Poets Café since September 2014, playing every 2nd Tuesday of the month. This is a tough audience weaned on salsa, that assures them of keeping their repertoire tight and ready. It's not easy to maintain such a big outfit working, but Rendón manages, and True Flight is evidence that they are a viable orchestra representing their community at a high level.

Track Listing: True Flight; Generoso; Café Sin Leche; Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile); Buena Gente; Island Woman; Oriente; Lagos; No Woman No Cry.

Personnel: Victor Rendón: timbales, batá (Iyá), shekere, quijada (jawbone of donkey) frog rasp, rainstick; Wilson “Chembo” Corniel: congas, batá (Itótele), campana, woodblocks, ocean drum; Cascadú: shekere, cajon base, batá (Okónkolo) pandeiro, cuica, triangle, cricket, tan-tan shakers, frog rasp, woodblocks, windchimes, pods, rainstick, vocal (6, 9); Yasuyo Kimura: bongos, cencerro, shekere, guataca, shaker, cajon repicador, frog rasp, agogo; Ron Smith: drums; Jessica Valiente: flute; Al Acosta: alto sax; Debra Kreisberg: alto sax, clarinet; Joe Stelluti: tenor sax, flute; Chris Stelluti: tenor sax, clarinet; Karl Watson: baritone sax, clarinet; Aniba Martinez: trumpet, flugelhorn; Guido Gonzalez: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Replogle: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kathleen Doran: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rick Faulkner: trombone; Joe Mannozzi: piano; ray Martinez: bass; Claudio Roditi: trumpet (3, 8); Jennifer Freedman: vocal (9); Johnny Rodriguez: bongo (2, 4, 7); Jorge Maldonado: maracas, guiro (2, 4, 7); Lou Tabackin: tenor sax (5); Lou Marini, Jr.: tenor sax (6).

Title: True Flight | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: American Showplace Music

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