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Mambo Madness with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra

July 25, 2013
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Spanish Harlem Orchestra photo credit:  Atael Weissman/ Latin Jazz Network

Spanish Harlem Orchestra
photo credit: Atael Weissman/ Latin Jazz Network

This Sunday, July 28, the award-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra presents a dance concert in the Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA.

<--break->Titled “Remembering the Palladium Days,”  the show is a tribute to the great mambo/Latin jazz bands that packed New York City’s Palladium Ballroom with dancers from 1948 to 1966.  The bands of Arsenio Rodriguez, Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez popularized dances like the mambo and the cha cha cha at the Palladium’s Wednesday night dance contests, and the dance craze spread from there to the rest of the US.  By the late 1950s, nearly every middle-class home in America had at least one mambo record.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra (SHO) played Jazz Alley in Seattle this past May to sold-out crowds.  Here’s more about the band in a nicely done video from WHYY.

Listen for the SHO and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz…and don’t forget your dancing shoes!

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Live Latin Jazz and Dance Music this week and next

July 18, 2013
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The Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

The Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band (Photo credit: Centrum Foundation)

Grammy Award winner and Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement honoree Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band return to Seattle’s Jazz Alley tonight 7/18 through Sunday 7/21.  Enjoy this 12-minute mini-documentary compiled from the films “Poncho Sanchez:  Keeper of the Flame” and “Poncho @ Montreux.”

Also tonight, Dancing Til Dusk presents “Fire on the Bricks”–salsa dancing in Seattle’ Occidental Square with Tumbao from 6pm until 9:30pm (the first hour is a beginning dance lesson).

And next week at Ellensburg’s Jazz in the Valley Festival, you’ll have the opportunity to listen and dance to some more of the Northwest’s finest salsa and Latin jazz.

Cambalache Salsa credit:  cambalachesalsa.com

Cambalache Salsa
credit: cambalachesalsa.com

Cambalache Salsa tours the Northwest, Alaska and Canada, and they’re bringing their very special blend of dance music to Jazz in the Valley on Friday night, July 26 on the Main Stage at the Rotary Pavilion.

Trombanga  credit:  trombanga.com

Trombanga
credit: trombanga.com

Trombanga, the trombone-rich Latin jazz and salsa band is based in Seattle and features Susan Pascal on vibes.  Catch them twice at Jazz in the Valley on Saturday July 27:  in the afternoon on the Main Stage at the Rotary Pavilion and again that night at The River@Grand Central.

Tune in for great Latin jazz on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!


The Misunderstood Drum

July 11, 2013
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Conga drums credit:  ehow.com

Conga drums
credit: ehow.com

The Name

What Americans call conga drums are actually “tumbadoras.”  The origin of the word “conga” is disputed; it may be derived from the Bantu word nkonga meaning “navel” or “umbilical”–perhaps a reference to Mother Africa.  There are several other naming theories.  There are also many pronunciations thrown about, but the correct way to say it:  CONE-gah.  A conga drummer is a conguero (cone-GARE-oh).

The Rhythm

In the US, conga drums were mistakenly associated with a particular rhythm called “la conga,” but the drums used for that dance are actually a different kind of drum used only for Carnaval.  Tumbadoras were built to play a drum pattern called tumbao.

The Drum

Congas are uniquely Cuban, probably first made by covering empty rum barrels with animal hides, and tuned by heating the hides with a flame.   Prior to the  1950s, congueros generally played only one drum.  After the development of tuning systems with lugs and bolts and drum heads made of synthetic materials, playing congas as a set of two, three, or four became easier logistically, and allowed for a melodic component and for improvisation. That opened the door to using the drums in a wide range of different musical styles.

Thanks to Nolan Warden, whose well-researched article “The History of the Conga Drum” appeared in the February 2005 edition of Percussive Notes, a publication of the Percussive Arts Society.

Listen for conga drum masters and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!

Let’s take a short conga drum lesson from Sheila E:


Posted in Jazz Caliente

Where are the high honors for America’s Latin Jazz artists?

July 4, 2013
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Paquito D' Rivera, NEA Jazz Master and National Medal of Arts honoree Photo credit: Lane Pederson

Paquito D’ Rivera, NEA Jazz Master and National Medal of Arts honoree
Photo credit: Lane Pederson

Looking over the list of the recently announced 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters prompted me to search through the history of the awards for any Latin Jazz artists who have been so honored.

Of 128 Jazz Masters named since the award’s inception in 1982, only 8 are associated in any way with Latin Jazz:  Eddie Palmieri, Kenny Barron, Candido Camero, Ray Barretto, Paquito D’ Rivera, Chick Corea, Horace Silver and Dizzy Gillespie.

The list is even smaller for Latin Jazz recipients of the National Medal of Arts, which does occasionally award to jazz musicians:  Paquito D’ Rivera, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and of course Dizzy Gillespie were honored out of hundreds who have received the medal since 1985.

Let’s be clear:  I’m talking only about the BIG national arts honors, not reader’s polls, critic’s polls, Grammy or Latin Grammy awards, or even the Jazz Journalist Association’s yearly awards for music (which, by the way, has an excellent track record for honoring Latin Jazz musicians and recordings).

National recognition for the art form of Latin Jazz, its artists and its contribution to the American musical landscape is what I’m after.

How do we make that happen?  Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

In the meantime, have a happy Independence Day, and mind the explosives…

Enjoy this version of  “America the Beautiful” from Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana, Poncho Sanchez and Ruben Blades.

Listen for the nation’s best in Latin Jazz on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!


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    Robin’s Nest

    A blog about Jazz, Blues, Latin Jazz, New Orleans, musician's stories and more. My name is Robin Lloyd and I've been involved in jazz radio and the music business for over 30 years. This is my personal blog.

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