Carnegie Hall, June 21, 2003:
Kathy and I travel into Manhattan on a very rainy Saturday night. We park and then go to the Manhattan Sheraton Hotel to pick up tickets for my first review assignment from Festival Productions for a JVC Jazz event here in New York. I am reviewing The Crusaders at Avery Fisher Hall on Saturday June 28th. We meet Sarah and Susan from Festival Productions and they are great. We catch an amazing dinner at Gallagher’s Steak House and proceed on to Carnegie Hall for tonight’s special event, the Havana-NY Jam.
The Carnegie Hall foyer is packed as the rain continues to fall, very heavy at times. Kathy and I both get t-shirts with this year’s brand new tremendous design. Sarah from Festival Productions drops off tickets at the box office and we say thanks again for The Crusaders tickets. Tonight we have front row center seats: A106 and A107. We meet and get acquainted with Stanley and Karen, father and daughter, who are sitting next to us.
At 8:00 P.M. Ray Barretto takes the stage. He starts off with a Jazz Band configuration of: congas, piano, standup bass, drums, trumpet and alto saxophone. The first song is a Cuban standard, “Taboo.” The intro is an anticipatory and sensual alto solo, weaving sultry melodic phrases. The trumpet joins in with dynamic high and low accompaniment. Ray develops the Latin rhythm on his congas as the drummer features the Latin accents on the crown of the ride cymbal. The alto saxophone continues to play dreamy and ethereal melodic development. The trumpet executes extended melodic runs building to high emotional crescendo notes.
The next number is a tribute to Art Blakey, “Together,” by Wayne Shorter. Ray starts on congas then the piano joins in as the tempo slows for dynamic effect. The band kicks in on a lively 6/8 tempo. The trumpet solo blows hard with long melodic runs and strong ‘fat’ high notes. The piano solo is very tasteful and builds dynamically. The alto solo is excellent with emotional flourishes and fast crescendo runs. The drummer solos intensely, then goes more percussive with articulate rolls, paradiddles, cymbal crashes, woodblock and cowbell features.
The third arrangement starts with a conga solo from Ray Barretto. This is sensational playing with dynamic extremes of loud and quiet showcasing excellent fingertip and palm control. The strong 4/4-tempo is hard and succinct while the horns are soothing in unison harmonic development. The alto solo builds to crescendo then returns to a soothing and gentle melodic attack. The band simmers as the alto dances melodic flourishes and arpeggios over the tight rhythm section. The band builds dynamic musical pastels of color as the alto wails over the collaborative musical painting. The band plays dynamically soft as the trumpet sighs and delicately chooses notes with an excellent use of space and dissonance. The band comes down to soothing lows to start the piano solo. The piano plays dreamy and selective note choices with sustained melodic thoughts, building to a heavier, frenzied lead with dissonant chord accents. Ray Barretto takes an amazing conga solo. He executes seamless polyrhythmic time changes, at will and without notice. He possesses amazing control. He gets faster and faster for emotional feel, then returns back to the head. The band is cookin’.
For the fourth arrangement Ray brings out the Latin Band. They open with a rumba then dynamically stop and change to an upbeat jazz swing. Ray’s seventeen-year-old son, Christopher, takes an alto solo. He begins carefully and then wails his horn; executing long melodic runs and flourishes. The two alto saxophone players alternate solos as the band is smokin’. Ray conducts the Latin Band ensemble, which features a full complement of percussionists.
Song five features Adalberto Santiago on vocals. The two Coro singers, Renzo Padilla and Aris Martinez, are excellent Latin salsa vocalists and maraca players. They have fantastic two part vocal harmonies and their dance routines are smooth as silk. The singers dance in perfect unison. The Latin band percussionists are hot, hot, hot, and supremely complement the dynamic horn charts.
The next arrangement is an upbeat salsa with four horns, bongos, congas, timbales, bass, piano and maracas. The music is spirited, joyful and makes you want to get up and dance. The piano solo is fantastic as the bands cooks in the background. We all clap in the Latin rhythm pattern. The piano executes dissonant chord melodies and accents. The band builds to an incredible flurry and frenzied crescendo. The horn section has an amazing colorful chart and moves easily between dissonance and consonance. The cowbell cuts right through easily. The bongo player, Mark Lopez, sings and clearly showcases the percussive accents.
Song seven is a cha cha. The vocal is outstanding. The band modulates from sensual and sexy, to more upbeat salsa, then back to a cha cha again. Adalberto Santiago is fantastic on lead vocals. The percussionists employ dual cowbells to cut right through the tempo, sharply and succinctly. The timbales fully complement the percussion to create a cohesive sound and an incredible arrangement.
The last musical entry is an upbeat salsa and just cooks! The percussion section of bongos, congas, timbales and maracas are explosive. The horn chart is colorful and extremely skillful with stops and dynamic extremes. The piano showcases dissonant chord accents. They go to double cowbells again to powerfully cut through the rhythm.
Ray Barretto puts on an incredible show here tonight. From the Jazz Band to the Latin Band, the excitement never abates whatsoever. Ray is an amazing conga player, bandleader and arranger. His musicians are incredible ensemble players as well as soloists. Ray Barretto is a world famous musician and showed us why, over and over, tonight. Simply tremendous!
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