The Krakow appearance of the Arturo Sandoval Sextet at Centrum Kijów kicked off spring, which, thanks to Letni Festiwal Jazzowy Piwnicy pod Baranami (http://www.cracjazz.com/pl/) [Cellar under the Rams Summer Jazz Festival], arrived unusually early this year. Cuban and afro rhythms warmed us and infected us with dance fever throughout the two-hour performance.
Arturo Sandoval had such a great time onstage with music and rhythm that it would have been a shame for us to enjoy ourselves any less.
The performance also featured several jazz ballads, performed solo by Sandoval, on the piano; reminiscences of Dizzy Gillespie, a great friend and mentor of Sandoval’s who died in 1993.; a short but comical and substantial lecture, “What is bebop?”; and Sandoval’s excellent sense of humor. Thus no element of jazz was lacking.
Sandoval also returned to his classic repertoire, from which he had departed on Eternamente Manzanero, his latest album, recorded with Jorge Calandrelli, which was dominated by romantic ballads and even pop sounds.
Anyone wishing to be reminded of the mood of the Krakow concert would be well advised to dig To a Finland Station (1982) out of his or her vinyl collection.
In Krakow starring:
John Belzaguy – bass
Tiki Pasillas – percussion
Dave Siegel – keyboard
Johny Friday – drums
Kemuel Roig – piano
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Jon Hassell grew up with ears alert to divergent aspects of the jazz tradition, one early influence including Maynard Ferguson’s “stratospheric” trumpeting with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. While studying at the Eastman School of Music, Hassell became increasingly interested in serial music and more experimental expressions of the new music avant-garde, in the mid-1960s traveling to Cologne to study with pioneering composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Returning to New York in 1967 he met and befriended Terry Riley. Hassell played on Riley’s landmark recording In C, and was introduced by Riley to La Monte Young with whose Dream House project he toured through the 1970s.
An encounter with the music of Indian singer Pandit Pran Nath was fundamental. Hassell studied extensively with Pran Nath, subsequently incorporating vocal techniques of raga into his trumpet playing, developing a new style for his instrument and his music as a whole.
Vernal Equinox (1977) laid down the essence of the idiosyncratic yet wide-open musical expression Hassell has continued to develop and redefine over the past decades: “My aim was to make a music that was vertically integrated in such a way that at any cross-sectional moment you were not able to pick a single element out as being from a particular country or genre of music.”
In 1986 Brian Eno, a frequent collaborator, would observe that “Jon Hassell is an inventor of new forms of music – of new ideas of what music could be and how it might be made. His work is drawn from his whole cultural experience without fear or prejudice. It is an optimistic, global vision that suggests not only possible musics but possible futures.” An enticing proposal for the most diverse musicians, Hassell’s collaborators over the years have ranged from Peter Gabriel to the Kronos Quartet, Ry Cooder and rock star Bono, and his trumpet performances have featured on recordings with Björk, Baaba Maal, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ani di Franco, David Sylvian, the Talking Heads and many others.
Additionally his playing and/or music has been heard in numerous films including The Last Temptation of Christ, Trespass, Wild Side, Greenwich Mean Time, Angel Eyes, Owning Mahowny, Million Dollar Hotel and more.
In April 2009, Jon Hassell and Brian Eno delivered their Conversation Piece at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. This “conversational remix”, an animated juxtaposing of philosophies of life, art and music, was premiered to acclaim at Norway’s Punkt Festival in 2008.
In a small town in Central Serbia, called Guca, the “Festival of Brass Music” takes place annually since 40 years. It’s a competition to determine the best brass musicians on Earth. More than 300.000 people grab the chance to listen to over 30 bands. And Boban Marcovic Orkestar are among the winners every time, receiving the “best orchestra” award in 2000 as well as “best trumpet” for the maestro himself in 2001 – his 5th win. It was the first time ever that a musician got the highest mark from every jury member.
The reason for Markovic’s continuing success is evident: He is the best Serbian trumpeter, reinventing “traditional” brass music with injections and adaptations of sounds from around the globe. His music is strongly influenced by the old traditions of the Roma. Just listen to his version of the Jewish classic Hava Naguila and you’ll understand.
The band’s repertoire includes Gypsy grooves, chocheks and other dances, as well as tunes from movies of Emir Kusturica, but also new material, composed exclusively for the band. In a mix of archaic jazz and light and sweet Balkan-brass-sound Markovic became a king in the Balkans and now is one of the VIPs of the region. The band performs on weddings, on open-air-festivals, in music academies or on classical concerts with the same power like the best rock bands.
From the historical sight only the Gypsies kept the country’s tradition of brass music alive, from the times of the Ottoman Empire through Tito’s communist regime, right into Slobodan Milosevic’s infamous reign.
Since Emir Kusturica’s notorious Balkan film Underground (1995), Gypsy-Serbian brass music started to have powerful presence on the world music scene. The blasting of Gypsy brass made the film unforgettable, creating the frantic, surreal atmosphere which the film is famous for. None other than Boban Markovic and his orchestra supplied the most impressive tunes of the soundtrack. Boban Markovic Orkestar have played festivals and concerts throughout Europe.
Omar Sosa and Paolo Fresu – Eros (Tuk Music/Ota Records, 2016)
Luxuriously elegant, seductive and exotically dreamy, the Tuk Music release Eros, born out of the collaborative efforts of Cuban musician and composer Omar Sosa and Italian musician and composer Paolo Fresu, is one of those exciting CDs where you just have no idea what’s coming around the next bend.
Dramatically packed with savory bits and bites of electronica, musical samplings and offbeat percussion, as well as the mastery of Mr. Sosa’s piano lines and Mr. Fresu’s trumpet and flugelhorn lines, Eros conjures up jazz, world music and dreamy musicscape and sometime all at once. Add in the vocals of Natacha Atlas and cello by Jaques Morelenbaum and Eros goes from extraordinary to extravagantly superb.
Opening with the sleek coolness of “Teardrop/Ya Habibi” with vocals by Ms. Atlas and trumpet lines by Mr. Fresu so good it will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Full of surprises, Eros never quite goes where you think it will so when “Sensuousness” combines a throat singer with cello, piano and trumpet in a track so utterly elegant it’s a little odd but it works in a big way.
Listeners get savvy coolness with tracks like “Zeus’ Desires” and “Brezza del Verano.” “My Soul, My Spirit” with vocals by Ms. Atlas against a backdrop of strings, electronica and birdsong is a simply stunning. Other goodies include “La Llamada,” the fantastical world conjured on “What Is Inside/Himeros” and exotically charged “Eros Mediterraneo.”
Eros is savage coolness. Forget what you know about the piano, trumpet or the way you think a track will progress. Ditch the map and just go with where the music will take you.
The Džambo Aguševi Orchestra is an exciting Balkan brass orchestra led by Macedonia’s trumpet king, Džambo Aguševi. Unlike other brass well-known brass bands that focus on traditional material, the Džambo Aguševi Orchestra mixes Balkan Gypsy music with Latin jazz, Flamenco, Caribbean beats and other global influences.
The lineup on the album includes Džambo Agušev on trumpet and vocals; Džemal Agušev on trumpet and vocals; Kočo Agušev on trumpet; Sunaj Mustafov on trumpet; Ali Zekirov on tenor horn; Elvijan Demirovski on on tenor horn; Džafer Fazliov on tenor horn; Šukri Abdulov on tuba and helicon; Orfej Čakalovski on goč (large double-headed drum) and Nedjat Redjepov on drums.
Guests include: Sedat Sedo on tarabuka; Azat Mehmedov on clarinet and saxophone; Mishel Trajkovski on accordion; Rumen Kamburozv on vocals; Senad Suta on drums; and Brano Jakubovic on electronics.
Brass Like it Hot is an irresistible brass band album.
When it comes to the Latin music world, the living legend of trumpet players was Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros Sr., who passed on January 6, 2016 at the age of 87 years.
“Chocolate,” as we will refer to him. was born in in Santa Clara, Cuba on April 4, 1928 and resided in Brooklyn, New York. In his musical life Chocolate played with so many orchestras; too many to mention. Chocolate performed with Beny More, Arsenio Rodriguez, the Machito Orchestra, Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Generoso
Jimenez, Larry Harlow and so many more.
According to timbalero great, Mario Grillo son of the famed Latin Orchestra leader, Frank Grillo “Machito”: “These are all the countries Chocolate Armenteros toured with me when we were in my father’s Machito Latin Orchestra: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, England, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Puerto Rico. The USA from Coast to Coast. We covered 35 cities in Europe. We traveled by bus, train, plane, ferry; we covered 15,000 miles in weeks.”
Mario stated that he is going to be 60 years old on St. Patrick’s Day and that he had known Chocolate for almost 60 years. Mario spoke of Chocolate with the utmost regard and said that Chocolate was family to his father and himself; that his sister Paula Grillo (former vocalist with the Machito Orchestra) and Alfredo Armenteros Jr. were baptized at the same church same day.
Mario Grillo: “When Mario Bauza and Graciela left my father’s Machito orchestra in 1975, they wanted Chocolate to go play with them in Mario Bauza’s Orchestra. Chocolate turned them down and chose to play with my father’s (Machito) orchestra. He was a very important person in my life and in many other people’s life. His talent was quite unique.
There are 1 million trumpet players on this earth; the minute he put his lips on that trumpet you knew it was Chocolate, just with his approach and concept. Chocolate was the greatest and most pleasant person; he was my friend and mentor. Mario Bauza had taught him my father’s music book (charts) and he taught me the book. He knew it full and well, he knew how my father’s orchestra worked and its approach and concept.”
Mario Grillo: “When you have a sound like Chocolate, how could you go wrong? He knew the roots of that orchestra.
I had dinner with many musicians and people, and dinner at the craziest of places. I even had dinner with Tito Puente. Whenever I would go out to dinner with Chocolate, it was complete, because he was complete. We would have a cocktail, an appetizer, a salad, soup, entrée, dessert and a digestif (an after dinner drink).
Chocolate recorded 3 albums for my father’s orchestra (Machito) and 2 studio recordings and he was on the North Sea Jazz Festival album recorded in Holland.
Even when no one wanted him as a roommate, when we were touring in Venezuela with the Machito Orchestra, I said he could be my room mate; we were in Venezuela for 10 days. I did not sleep for 10 days, when my wife came to pick me up at the airport she asked what had happened to me. She said I looked like a raccoon, with black under my eyes (Mario laughs)”.
Another time, Mario had told me about an incident where the promoter had not paid the touring musicians and his father Machito called the promoter and told him they needed to get paid, that Machito told the promoter that he had enough cash to fly all the musicians home and that if the promoter did not show up at the next city with cash for all the musicians, they were flying home and canceling the tour. Mario said that the promoter did show up and Mario did pay all the musicians.
With their payday, Mario said that Chocolate told him, “Let’s go have dinner”. Mario said that he and Chocolate spent $500.00 on dinner.
Mario was getting emotional talking about Chocolate. Mario Grillo: “When my father passed, I had the vote of confidence emotionally and physically from Chocolate and he came to our house after the funeral.
If you had a chance to see Chocolate, you saw the greatest thing, and if you didn’t you lose out!”
Miguel “Pacha” Pozo, leader of Charanga Pacha in New York City, Jose Fajardo Sr. Charanga Orchestra: “I never had the pleasure to perform with Chocolate but 2 years ago he was part of the Jose Fajardo Awards and still at 84 he sounded great. The sound that he got out of the trumpet was awesome, he will be missed.”
Patricia Thumas, pianist from San Francisco, California: “I did a gig long ago with Tito Garca’s Orchestra and Chocolate had flown in from Miami and did the gig with us, It was a blast!”
Cid Govanni Ramos, Latin percussionist from Puerto Rico, member of Facebook’s Timbales Congas Bongo Bata & Bells: “Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros was like the last Mohican of Cuban son-style trumpet player. He played with a lot of people back then in Cuba and in New York with the top salsa artists in the scene, he will be deeply missed.”
Faustino Cruz, timbalero, bongosero, Latin music historian & musicologist, and Latin instrument historian, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania via New York City: “Chocolate a heartfelt moment. We worked together for quite some time in the Joe Cotto Orquesta. I remember him calling me Joe Cotto’s son because I was the youngest member of the band at the time. We had great times. “
Tito Rodriguez Jr., timbalero, orchestra leader, son of the great Tito Rodriguez Sr.: “Chocolate will be sorely missed not only as a great trumpet player but as a person. He did several recording sessions for my father’s label in the late 70s. He was always smiling when I would run into him at his favorite eating place in El Barrio, New York City. A true legend RIP!”
John “Dandy” Rodriguez, legendary bongosero, formerly from Tito Puente Orchestra and currently with MLO The Mambo Legends Orchestra: “Chocolate was a super trumpet player, a super person, always smiling, always dressed sharp, he recorded in Cuba and the United States, he was a one of a kind person, great soloist on his instrument. Chocolate was not a lead trumpet player, but he had a tone, if you closed your eyes; you would know it was Chocolate!”
Our deepest regards to Alfredo Armenteros Jr.and Family. Chocolate will be greatly missed, although we have his grand recordings to listen to in his memory.
Thanks you to all the great artist that contributed their time and memories to this article. A special thank you to Mario Grillo, you’re too much man, and you had me from tears to laughing the hardest I have laughed in years! (almost like a Hispanic telenovela!)
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