Barbary Coast explores Latin jazz in weekend’s show

by Katherine Schreiber | 10/25/15 7:17pm

The Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble brought the music of Latin jazz, with its non-traditional 3/2, 2/3 and 6/8 rhythms, to life on Saturday, under the leadership of music director and bassist of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Carlos Henriquez in a program called “From Mambo to Now: Big Band Latin Jazz.”

The program, which Henriquez adapted from a program he created for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra last summer, featured compositions by Afro-Cuban jazz icon Frank “Machito” Grillo and American Mambo musician Tito Puente, as well as works by Henriquez himself.

Barbary Coast director Don Glasgo said that all the music at Saturday’s show came from the Orchestra’s show.

Isabel Hurley ’19, the group’s lead alto saxophonist, said that the music in Saturday’s show was different than the music the group normally plays.

“It’s a unique modern take on the traditional rhythms of jazz,” she said.

In addition to Henriquez, vocalist Marco Bermudez, trumpet player Ray Vega and percussionist William Rodriguez were other professionals who played in the Saturday performance. Glasgo said that these musicians participated in a residency with Henriquez leading up to the show. Rodriguez directed the Barbary Coast’s Latin rhythm section, which includes bongos, congas and timbales, during Saturday’s show.

Hurley said that working with professionals gave the performance a new enthusiasm and energy.

“It’s amazing getting to work with professionals and having their input,” she said. “It brought out even more energy and excitement from the songs in the band.”

She said that playing alongside the composers of the music was also a new experience for her.

“We’re playing it as it’s meant to be played,” she said.

Barbary Coast’s lead trumpet Kathryn Waychoff ’16 said that visiting musicians brought the group a new perspective to their performance.

“They give us a better understanding of the music,” she said. “Without them, we don’t have the background or the personal stories that create the music.”

Barbary Coast violinist Emmanuel Hui ’17 said that while he did not spend much time working with the visiting musicians, he learned a lot from them because they have “an unspoken ability to understand of where each of us are and our abilities and what we offer to the group.”

Hui, who had three solos in the concert, said that one of the bassists could tell that he had perfect pitch just by listening to him play.

“They can hear playing style so effortlessly and break it down,” he said. “They can take their vocabulary and put it into my playing. They helped us think in a different way.”

Henriquez, who is originally from the Bronx, began playing music at a young age. He studied the guitar and bass at the LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts and Performing Arts. After high school he joined the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and began to tour the world. He has played with a range of bands and musicians, including Chucho Valdes, Tito Puente, Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder. Since 2008 he has taught at Northwestern University Bienen School of Music.

Barbary Coast director Don Glasgo first met Henriquez in 2001, when the bassist led jam sessions at a jazz seminar at Goddard College. Glasgo invited Henriquez to play with the Barbary Coast after learning about Henriquez’s summer concert series and the two agreed that Bermudez, Vega and Rodriguez would be great additions to the show.

The three other visiting musicians are also well-known luminaries in Latin jazz music. Bermudez is currently a vocalist for the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and sings with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra during its summer series. Vega is a three-time Grammy-winning trumpet player, and currently teaches at the University of Vermont. Rodriguez, who teaches Afro-Cuban percussion at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, Vermont, also runs his own professional band.

Hui said his favorite piece was Tito Puente’s “Que Sera Mi China” (1956) in which he traded solos with a flute soloist.

“It’s a really fun song about having a mistress and [the] mistress driving him crazy,” he said. “It’s a very cheeky song.”

Hurley said that she enjoyed Henriquez’s piece “2/3’s Adventure” (2015) because of the groove that song had from its switches between a traditional swing and a more Latin sound.

Waychoff said that she also enjoyed the energy of the Saturday performance. She said that during the performance’s final piece Glasgo kept extending the song to focus on the solos and keep the excitement high.

“The audience was really into it,” she said. “It was a real high note.”

The Barbary Coast usually specializes in African-American and Afro-Caribbean jazz traditions, but Saturday’s program explored the intersection between Latin music and traditional jazz. Machito, whose pieces were featured at the performance, was a forerunner in the Latin Jazz movement.

Hui said that he enjoyed the performance’s Latin rhythms.

“It’s not your typical big band standards,” he said. “It’ll make you want to get up and dance. It’s pretty fun.”

The Barbary Coast features a visiting jazz musician in their fall and winter concerts every year. The visiting artist plays their own music with the ensemble and rehearse with the group for one week before the performance. Past visiting artists have included Joe Bowie, Peter Apfelbaum, Craig Harris and Gregorio Uribe. Uribe will return to Dartmouth for the ensemble’s winter concert, which will take place on Feb. 12 as part of Winter Carnival.

Saturday’s show was held at 8 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium.