August 29, 2015


Music

Cuban-born bandleader brings the heat

How do you make a band wail, really wail?

Put Arturo Sandoval in charge.

The expat Cuban trumpeter, bandleader and student of Dizzy Gillespie played many roles -- trumpeter, percussionist, bandleader, synthesizer player, singer -- Thursday night as he fronted a sextet through 90 minutes of his signature Afro-Cuban music, with a nod or two to his mentor.

Sandoval's playing can be slow and mellow, or fast and urgent, but it always hits the mark.

He saved the highlight of the show for the encore: Gillespie's well-loved A Night in Tunisia.

The easily recognized jazz classic stood out for Sandoval's unaccompanied trumpet solo, but the band roared during the lengthy version, especially tenor saxophonist Zane Musa on a wild ride of a solo.

The 10-time Grammy award-winner opened his Winnipeg International Jazz Festival concert with a mellow tune, accompanied only by keyboard player Mahesh Balasooriya. Musa took over from the boss with some breathy ballad playing before the band took off with a hot trumpet solo and terrific solo from Balasooriya on piano.

Sandoval chose There'll Never Be Another You, another mellow ballad, for his second number, explaining that he was going to play an older trumpet, a "horn that doesn't even sound like a trumpet" but more like a flugelhorn.

"The older I get, the more I like romantic music," he told an appreciative audience. "I like to make music, not noise."

Of course, a fiery Cuban can't stick to mellow for long and Sandoval jumped into a wild, funky piece, perhaps harking back to Irakere, the Afro-Cuban ensemble he co-founded before defecting to the United States while on tour with Gillespie.

Sandoval set the tone with blistering playing, matched by Musa, and the whole band was flying through a Latin jazz party.

Sandoval switched from trumpet to synthesizer to percussion through the show, sometimes playing all three in a single piece.

And he showed off some great piano chops, opening with some delicate work and ending up rocking it before he gave the piano bench back to Balasooriya.

Sandoval sang a heartfelt Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You), the title track from his latest recording, "because it's true" he said of his mentor, the man who helped him defect and who helped him get established in his new country.

The trumpeter likes to party and has put together a great band -- including percussionist Armando Arce, bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Johnny Friday -- that shares that sentiment.

 

chris.smith@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2014 G3

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