After the NCCU Jazz Ensemble Big Band concert Friday night, I minded a research tip that Yale art historian and music critic Robert Farris Thompson hangs his hat on: "Jazz Rule #1 = Hang Out."
Turns out there's a jam session after every big band concert. In that rehearsal room, you couldn't turn around without jostling up against a saxophone. The talent was ridiculous.
Latin bands will often dip into the jazz cistern for horn players, that's a well-known fact. Jazz has given our music a lot, and I think it's fair to say it's been a two-way street, starting with Jelly Roll Morton and his famous quote about the "Spanish tinge."
In the audience were Alberto Carrasquillo (a Central Jazz Studies alum) and Kyle Santos, the trumpets of GarDel at the recent Copa Night event. Serena Wiley and Blu Thompson, both current students, play regularly with one Latin band or another, be it Carnavalito, Sajaso or GarDel. Faculty member Al Strong has also "been there, done that" playing various Latin gigs, as have students Reggie Greenlee and Ricardo James. Who else am I missing? Probably somebody.
There's a moment in the jam session--I don't know if there's a name for it--when something intangible happens and all the ordinary greatness of a non-stop blowing session turns into a magical conversation. I was in the right place at the right time, and had my camera out.
Al Strong (trumpet) leads with some nasty goodness, then the spirit lands on Serena Wiley (tenor sax), who descends from the risers to have her say. Blu Thompson (alto sax) picks up the thread with a children's rhyme, followed by Kadir Muhammed (trumpet). In the band are Baron Tymas (guitar), Jay Wright (piano), Freeman Ledbetter (doublebass) and Larry Draughn (drums). Sitting to my immediate left and right are Andy Paolantonio and James "Saxsmo" Gates.