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Roger Glenn and His Latin Jazz Ensemble at the Piedmont Piano in Oakland



Master Multi-Instrumentalist Roger Glenn
Master Multi-Instrumentalist Roger Glenn. Photo:

At The Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, California on May 26th, Roger Glenn’s Latin Jazz Ensemble showered those assembled with a heaping helping of great music. Glenn is a multi-instrumental, multi-talented composer and bandleader. He has played with an astonishing group of musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Taj Mahal, Mongo Santamaría and Cal Tjader just to mention a few. His prowess extends to some 18 plus instruments, including tenor and soprano saxes, vibes, flute and a half dozen small percussion instruments.  The audience, surrounded by pianos, watched as Glenn blew, shook and struck many different instruments.

Glenn has put together a stellar group of musicians with Marcos Silva on piano, Leon Joyce Jr. on drums, Michaelle Goerlitz on congas and assorted percussion, and Robb Fisher on bass.  Each member is an excellent improviser and an accomplished group participant.

They kicked things off by jumping into a Glenn composition entitled “Zambo’s Mambo”.  Glenn explained that a Zambo is a person who has African and Native American blood like Jimi Hendrix.  The song had some righteous solos, Glenn on flute and Fisher on bass. To honor the memory of his former bandleader Cal Tjader, Glenn wrote “Cal’s Guajira”. Appropriately, Glenn chose to play the vibes, Cal’s chosen instrument. After launching into Ray Obiedo’s “6/8 Blues” (an Afro-Cuban rumba) Goerlitz and Glenn got into a spirited back and forth on chekeres. Glenn and Goerlitz showed their versatility on Marcos Silva’s tune “Finel” picking up soprano sax and castanets respectively. The tenor sax was the next instrument Glenn employed on the cha-cha version of Sonny Rollins’ “Alfie’s Theme”.

Having covered Cuba it was time to continue the trip around the Americas with Glenn as our guide. Next stop Argentina, where the band tackled Astor Piazzola’s composition “Oblivion”. The Nuevo Tango was expertly rendered and Glenn held it all together on vibes.

Glenn’s composition “Roger’s Samba” proved to be a wonderful vehicle for the band. Brazilian born Marcos Silva stretched out, soloing with grace and power, displaying his intimate knowledge of the samba. Goerlitz’ use of the pandeiro and other brazilian percussion added important accents, while Glenn picked up the agogo (two headed bell), enhancing the samba beat.

The musical journey continued to New Orleans stopping in Congo Square where the slaves were only allowed to play their drums on Sunday.  To remember that special day Glenn wrote “Congo Square” a rousing ode combining european melody with African percussion.

The evening drew to a close as the band returned to the pen of Astor Piazzola dipping into the waters of “Libertango”. This proved to be a most enjoyable trip into many Latin cultures helmed by the incomparable Rodger Glenn.

Roger Glenn and His Latin Jazz Ensemble
Roger Glenn’s Latin Jazz Ensemble. Photo: Brooks Geiken
About Roger Glenn

Roger Glenn, master multi-instrumentalist, composer and entertainer on the flute, sax and vibraphone, is the son of the late Tyree Glenn who was one of the 57 notable jazz musicians pictured in the historic photo “A Great Day in Harlem.” Glenn’s earliest memories as a toddler was hammering on the vibes which his father had rolled next to his crib. Following those early years, he has performed, toured and recorded to enthusiastic, sold out audiences with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria, Rosemary Clooney, Herbie Mann, Pete Escovedo and Taj Mahal. Roger’s flute playing is featured on the Grammy Award winning album “La Onda Va Bien” with Cal Tjader, as well as many notable recordings by Donald Byrd, Peaches and Herb, ConFunkShun and Bobby Hutcherson. Living in the SF Bay Area since the mid-1970s, Roger works with many local and touring groups as well as his own ‘Roger Glenn Latin Jazz Ensemble.’ He is currently finalizing studio production on his long-awaited album “My Latin Heart.”

Tito Puente, Jr. and Roger Glenn at Yoshi’s Oakland. July 2, 2015

Brooks Geiken is a retired Spanish teacher, with a lifelong interest in music, specifically Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and Black American music. His wife thinks he should write a book titled "The White Dude's Guide to Afro-Cuban & Jazz Music". Brooks lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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