Monday, March 1, 2010

Grand Band

The UNC Jazz Band joined forces with the Charanga Carolina Saturday night, for the first time, with some new arrangements for the combined ensemble. Ivan Renta and Jason Marsalis, artists-in-residence at the Carolina Jazz Festival, were featured soloists. Renta brought a number of Chico O'Farrill charts with him, and the big band led off with "Havana Blues." Marsalis, a founding member of Los Hombres Calientes, did some impressive drumming in 6/8 on a Latin jazz number, but stuck mostly to vibes. He even snuck in a reference to the Star Trek opening theme in his vibes solo on "The Nearness of You." Inside joke?

Jason Marsalis, Charanga

Earlier in the day, Jason and Ivan gave a masterclass at an open rehearsal with the combined ensemble. A couple of pics (click on any to see larger):

rehearsal masterclass

rehearsal masterclass

rehearsal masterclass

Ivan Renta
has been to the Triangle a few times before; I first met him in 2005, with Chembo Corniel's five-piece Grupo Chaworo, at the old Exploris during the travelling Latin Jazz exhibition from the Smithsonian. He came to Memorial Hall for the first time the following year, with the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra led by Arturo O'Farrill. From the ancient, mineral hotsprings town of Coamo, Puerto Rico, the 29-year-old has been a leading sideman since his teens, when he moved to New York and began gigging with Eddie Palmieri and others.

Ivan Renta with UNC Jazz Band

The Jazz Band sounded really great, under the irrepressible leadership of Jim Ketch. But I admit I could hardly wait to hear David Garcia lead the Charanga and combined ensembles in the second half. Here are videos in full of the 3 new numbers they did, arranged for charanga and big band together.

"Pide Que Lo Toque" - a gem! Ivan plays a vintage German "Krebs" flute with a plastic mouthpiece, with an unusual Cuban provenance. These were once in common use in Cuba, and according to Ivan, while the middle range is nothing special, it really pops out the high notes which are favored in charanga. This very flute once belonged to the inimitable Richard Egües of Orquesta Aragon; Egües exchanged instruments with Mario Rivera in 1978, when the two recorded together in Cuba on the Tipica 73 album Intercambio Cultural. The flute came to Ivan recently following the passing of Mario Rivera in 2007. The first flute solo features Charanga flutist Caity Bunch; then Jason Marsalis takes a vibes solo; Ivan Renta plays the second flute solo about 4 min. in to the video.

"La Justicia" - Jaime Roman sings lead on this Papa Molina merengue cover. Funny lyrics! You hardly ever hear these old school, big band-era merengues anymore, with saxes doing the guajeos:

- a classic, Tito Puente cha cha cha, with vibes solo by Marsalis and Renta again on sax/flute:

The night wasn't over yet. See more videos from the post-show jam session at West End Wine Bar, here.

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