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NYC Latin On Lex: A Latin Jazz Fest

“The Y is a first rank cultural institution, and it’s an honor and a privilege to help them with this new festival, and hopefully serve as a bridge…”



Brian Lynch 2

Trumpeter, Composer Brian Lynch Presents Latin On Lex – 92nd Street Y (March 12, 13, 14, 2015)

Tomas Peña: Congratulations on the upcoming Latin on Lex Festival. You’re the Artistic Director and Host.

Brian Lynch: I’ve done a number of things in the past with the 92nd Street Y including, Jazz in July with Bill Charlap, where a few years ago we presented the music of The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project, Simpático (2006). That was a success in terms of bringing more awareness to Latin jazz and Latin music there. Recently, the folks at the Y were looking to expand their jazz programming, and they reached out to me. The Y is a first rank cultural institution, and it’s an honor and a privilege to help them with this new festival, and hopefully serve as a bridge between their audience and Afro-Caribbean Jazz. I’m hoping this new series will attract new audiences to the Y as well.

The 92nd Street Y is a world-class cultural and community center where people of all persuasions connect through culture, arts, and entertainment.

It’s a great place, and it’s not just oriented towards one community; it’s very inclusive, and they’re wonderful people to work with. I’m hoping that this will be the first instance of a regular yearly festival. Even though Latin jazz and Latin music are getting more visibility in our cultural institutions, I don’t think you can ever overdo it, and the Y’s supporting this music is most welcome!

I couldn’t agree more.

Day 1 (March 12th) is a salute to pianist, composer, ten-time Grammy Award winner and NEA Jazz Master, Eddie Palmieri whose name is synonymous with dance music (aka salsa). This time, he’ll be performing with the Latin Jazz Octet.

There’s a couple of secret histories (at least to some) here in this concert, one being the relationship Palmieri has had with jazz, and that jazz has had with him. Jazz has always been embedded in his music, but for many years it wasn’t overt. It was in the context of this unique hybrid that came out of Eddie, as well as with his collaboration with musicians like (trombonist) Barry Rogers. Also, there’s the fact that Eddie has touched and influenced so many jazz players. If you interview any prominent jazz musician, who was influenced by Latin music, Eddie’s name will be the first to come up. The other secret history is that of the group itself (the Afro-Caribbean Jazz Octet), which has had a great influence on the jazz scene for over 20 years despite its lack of recognition in some quarters.

You’ve been a member of the group from the beginning.

I am a founding member and have been a part of the group throughout its history. It goes back to the beginning of my time with Eddie (in the late 1980s), when he would occasionally get a call from the Blue Note or other jazz clubs, and on the gig he’d play his dance repertoire with extended solos. The amount of freedom and swing and everything that I experienced playing with him in that format convinced me that he could have the greatest jazz group of all time. Also, it was the combination of this with jazz horn players coming from various backgrounds, like trombonist Conrad Herwig and myself, that understood Afro-Caribbean music. When I brought saxophonist Donald Harrison into the band, his organic understanding from his own Afro – New Orleanian perspective was just what the group needed. It’s total “badness.”

Beneath it all, there’s always the Eddie Palmieri groove.

The groove of dance music … of course it’s not just any dance music – it’s Eddie Palmieri’s dance music, and it’s always percolating. We’ll be doing music from the trilogy of albums Palmas (1993) Arete (1995) and Vortex (1997), which aren’t as well-known as they should be despite the great influence they’ve had on generations of musicians. We’re going to perform tunes from the group’s repertoire that haven’t been heard as much as well as material that has never been part of the touring book.

The lineup includes: Eddie Palmieri, piano; Donald Harrison, alto sax; Steve Davis – trombone; Luques Curtis – bass; Little Johnny Rivero – conga, and percussion; Anthony Carillo – percussion and Camilo Molina – percussion.

Latin On Lex

Day 2 (March 13th) is “New Cuban Jazz.” Many of the artists (Yosvany Terry, Pedrito Martinez, Manuel Valera, etc.), have been living and playing New York for over a decade. Today, many of them are seasoned leaders, educators and award winners in their own right. Tell me about the musical movement they created, and the impact on the New York music scene and the world.

New York is the place where musicians go for the most profound musical and cultural interchange, whether you’re from Milwaukee, Wisconsin or Havana. I think these artists’ music reflects that, it’s very uncompromising (pure) and very hybrid.

Why did you choose these particular musicians?

I’ve been fortunate to be associated with these great musicians since the early days of their time in NYC. Over the years, I’ve played on a lot of their projects, as they have played on mine, and this puts me in a good position to put something together with these particular and very significant players. There is compatibility and diversity in their music. I think it’s going to be a very enjoyable concert in terms of hearing the mix that these artists have put together as players and as composers.

Will the band perform new material?

Yosvany Terry will be presenting music from his recent recordings, including Today’s Opinion (2012), and Manuel Valera will do the same for his New Cuban Express records. I’ll be contributing a couple of things from the two volumes of my ConClave series, which, both Yosvany, Manuel, and Pedrito have played on. Pedrito Martinez, of course, will be featured with his incredible talent and presence, chiefly as percussionist but perhaps with a bit of his vocal magic as well. For me, this concert is a showcase of a musical movement that has been going on for about fifteen years.

Great lineup! Yosvany Terry – alto sax & shekere; Gregory Tardy – tenor sax; Manuel Valera – piano; Pedrito Martinez – percussion; Hans Glawischnig – bass and Obed Calvaire – drums.

Day 3 (March 14th) The last evening is Bolero meets Jazz featuring the great Phil Woods.

And vocalist Xiomara Laugart, who I worked with in the group Yerba Buena. She’s been one of my favorite singers for a long time, and this show is going to be an opportunity to hear her with a great ensemble of musicians that I’ve put together. Among other things that will be presented in this concert, I’m making some special arrangements of her repertoire, including selections from her new record Tears and Rumba on the Chesky label. I did a record a few years ago called Bolero Nights for Billie Holiday (2009), on which Phil Woods was the special guest. We’re going to do some material from that, so that’s where bolero meets American music.

The love affair between the Latin American Songbook and the American Songbook has been going on for over a century.

Perhaps it’s good marketing to talk about these being separate musics, but I’ve always felt that we should talk about all the music together. When I teach my jazz trumpet students, I have them transcribe and learn solos by Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown and Freddie Hubbard, but also Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, Felix Chappotin, Oscar “Floresita” Velasco O’ Farrill and Alejandro “El Negro” Vivar. To me they are all jazz musicians.

Another great lineup: Phil Woods – alto sax; Iván Renta – alto sax; Ralph Moore – tenor sax; Marshall Gilkes – trombone; Ron Blake – baritone sax; Zaccai Curtis – piano; Yunior Terry – bass; Vince Cherico – drums; Reinaldo de Jesús – percussion and Xiomara Laugart – vocals. Tell me about the importance of the pre-concert discussions.

When I come to a listening experience, it’s important for me to have a sense of context. For the audience of these shows, I want to help provide context through some history and insight into the artists, what their influences were, who they are influencing now, that sort of thing. Even for artists who are well known, like Palmieri and Phil Woods, I want to provide some insight into their worlds. For example, Phil Woods’ experiences with Latin music and Eddie’s relationship with jazz.

At the end of the day, everyone is enriched. I should point out, in addition to your duties as the Artistic Director and host you will also be performing. Good luck with the series and see you there!

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A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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