Uribe will add Colombian flair to Barbary Coast

by Caela Murphy | 2/6/13 11:00pm

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Singer and accordionist Gregorio Uribe will perform with the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble on Saturday night.
by Gavin Huang / The Dartmouth

Uribe, a singer and accordionist from Bogota, Colombia, studied at the Berklee College of Music before creating the Gregorio Uribe Big Band, based in New York City.

"A lot of my music is inspired by Colombian folklore," Uribe said. "I try to grab elements from that, whether it is melodies, rhythms or harmonies."

Traveling in South America as a street performer was a formative experience in Uribe's career.

"I felt a connection with the music of Brazil," Uribe said. "Brazilian music is beautifully complex, but at the same time so accessible. I aimed to do that with Colombian music."

The music performed on Saturday will be a combination of Colombian rhythms and big band arrangements with some funk influence.

Big band music, a subgenre of jazz, had its peak in the United States during the swing era of the 1940s. The performances are played by large ensembles and typically consist of 15 to 20 pieces. Arrangements emphasize horn sections, such as trumpets and saxophones.

The ensemble will be practicing nine pieces of music with Uribe, who arrived on campus Sunday, and will select the final songs for the concert during rehearsal, director Donald Glasgo said.

By Saturday night, Uribe and the ensemble will have spent 20 hours rehearsing together, Glasgo said. Uribe said he planned to familiarize the ensemble members with the rhythms of the arrangements and encourage them to feel and enjoy the music. Although the ensemble's quality of playing is important, Uribe also stressed that the songs are intended to be fun to play and dance along to.

After their first rehearsal with Uribe on Monday night, ensemble members reflected on what it was like to work with the world-famous artist. Brett Szalapski '15, who plays baritone saxophone in the ensemble, said he looked forward to Saturday's collaboration.

"He treated us very professionally," Szalapski said. "He's got good energy and I think rehearsals are going to be really fun."

This performance marks the first time Uribe has collaborated with a student ensemble. Playing with other bands and musicians in his past has proven to be both a challenging and fascinating process.

"You learn so much about your own music, because you get to see how other people interpret it," Uribe said. "It's also always a great excuse to meet other musicians and develop friendships."

Barbary Coast has worked with guest artists in residence since 1979, Glasgo said. For students in the ensemble, most of whom are not music majors, this opportunity offers a glimpse into the world of professional music.

"It's a really transformative time for the students. They make really strong connections with the guest artists," Glasgo said. "For a lot of students in the Coast, this is a window into what it would be like to live as a musician."

Many ensemble members said they appreciate the chance to rehearse and perform with acclaimed guest artists.

"It's an honor to be able to work with all of these people," Hannah O'Flynn '15, an alto saxophonist, said. "We're lucky to have Don Glasgo as our director; he has so many connections and knows a lot of people."

O'Flynn and Szalapski noted the variety of styles that the different visiting musicians bring to the table.

"Everyone has a different way of carrying themselves," O'Flynn said. "It's interesting to go term to term with different artists and share their styles."

Uribe said that while many people in the U.S. are familiar with the sounds of Cuba, Brazil and Mexico, most have not been as exposed to Colombian music and rhythms. Uribe hopes that audience members will walk away with a greater appreciation for his country's musical style.

"I think this is a great opportunity for me to showcase some of that," Uribe said. "Hopefully the people who enjoy it will want to learn more about it and become more familiar with it."

In addition to providing an unparalleled learning experience, the ensemble members said that the concert would be playful and lively in keeping with the spirit of Winter Carnival.

"It's going to be a very high-energy concert," Szalapski said. "The music is very upbeat and fun to listen to."

Glasgo spoke highly of the music's festive spirit and said he is excited to see the ensemble's work with Uribe come to fruition on Saturday night.

"We're at the beginning right now of a week-long collaboration and neither one of us knows what is going to happen," Glasgo said. "But we have a general goal, and that is to have a party Saturday night and play this music as well as we can."

The concert will take place at 8 p.m. in Spaulding.