Bobby Sanabria Big Band: Live & in Clave

Photograph courtesy Jan Sileo

Sixteen years ago Bobby Sanabria took his Big Band on the road and when they were in Birdland on May 20 in 1999, the indefatigable leader recorded the concert that produced this explosive record. Now Bobby Sanabria is known for his fiery energy as a drummer but he is also one of the most elegant and accomplished percussion colourists in the Afro-Cuban idiom. Bobby Sanabria was also the one who said that without Tito Puente there would be no Latin Jazz but truth be told, without Bobby Sanabria, Latin Jazz would not have had as celebrated visceral energy yesterday and today. It’s as simple as that. He plays fast like a bat out of hell but can also play soft as this wonderful and iconic record Bobby Sanabria Big Band Afro-Cuban Dream – Live & in Clave showcases.

Bobby Sanabria Big Band - Live & In ClaveThe Big Band, in 1999, comprised such extraordinary musicians as alto and soprano saxophonist Karolina Strassmayer, bassist Boris Kozlov, trumpeter Michael Phillip Mossman, trombonist Chris Washburne, tenor saxophonist John Stubblefield and of course, the great conguero Cándido Camero, who played a monumental role on a seminal version of “Manteca”. However Mr. Sanabria’s Big Band also has some fine musicians in tenor saxophonist Jay Collins and the wonderful pianist John di Martino. What is extraordinary about this band is that it rivals the primeval excitement of even the greatest Latin Jazz big bands of any era and this disc proves it beyond any doubt. Purists might balk at the wild nature of the Afro-Cuban music that is played here but the intense performance is as reminiscent of the rhythms of Africa melded into those of Cuba.

The repertoire is also key to the majesty of this disc. The programme displays all of the diversity of a Latin American rainforest, both in terms of instrumentation and style. Even “Donna Lee” gets the extraordinary Afro-Cuban Jazz treatment and it is quite spectacular. The mixture of Western polyphony with some profoundly beautiful Afro-Cuban polyrhythms is illuminating and unexpectedly rewarding. The band culled from various musical sensibilities does yeoman service to the repertoire. The music is continuously catchy, evocative and melodic. You might say that this is everything that should be expected from a live performance, but even the best of them do not match the magnificent manner in which this diverse band has been rehearsed for that memorable evening.

Nevertheless, this is very much Bobby Sanabria’s record. His performance throughout has a tightness of organisation that is genuinely composerly. Driven forwards by the thunderous timpani motifs that torch swirling, tearing-it-up percussion cadenzas in each of the charts, Bobby Sanabria’s rhythmic stride ignites the whole work. It feels satisfyingly unified; idiom-perfect performance too. The result is less a Paella Mixta than a true symphony of hearts and minds built on the cantus firmus of Bobby Sanabria’s almost fiendishly brilliant musicianship.

Track List: The Opening – a: Praise t the Creator & Ancestors; b: In the Time of the Colony; c: Telemina; Mosscode; Angel Eyes; Nuyorican Son; Olokún/Yemayá; Adios Mario; The Troubadours; Donna Lee; Manteca.

Personnel: Bobby Sanabria: drums, akpwón and morua vocals, and musical director; Wilson “Chembo” Corniel: congas; Roberto Quintero: bongo and cencerro, and shékere; Hiram “El Pava” Remon: maracas, güiro macho, shékere and vocals; John di Martino: piano; Boris Kozlov: acoustic bass and electric bass (9); Karolina Strassmayer: alto and soprano saxophones and vocals; Gene Jefferson: alto saxophone, guataca and vocals; Peter Brainin: tenor saxophone; Jay Collins: tenor and soprano saxophones, and pre-Columbian flute; Ricardo Pons: baritone saxophone, shékere and vocals; Michael Phillip Mossman: trumpet; John Walsh: trumpet and vocals; Tim Quimette: trumpet; Tanya Darby: trumpet; Dr. Chris Washburne: trombone, clave, guataca and vocals; Barry Olsen: trombone, guataca and vocals; Joe Fiedler: trombone; Don Levine: bass trombone; Rick Alarie: drum technician; John Stubblefield: tenor saxophone (4, 5 & 9); Cándido Camero: congas (9).

Label: Arabesque
Recorded: May 1999
Running time: 1:07:24
Buy music on: amazon

About Bobby Sanabria

Bobby Sanabria – drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, producer, filmmaker, conductor, educator, activist, multi-cultural warrior and multiple Grammy nominee – has performed with a veritable Who’s Who in the world of jazz and Latin music, as well as with his own critically acclaimed ensembles. His diverse recording and performing experience includes work with such legendary figures as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Charles McPherson, Mongo Santamaría, Ray Barretto, Marco Rizo, Arturo Sandoval, Roswell Rudd, Chico O’Farrill, Candido, Yomo Toro, Francisco Aguabella, Larry Harlow, Henry Threadgill, and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mario Bauzá. Read more…

Raul Da Gama
Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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