David Oquendo. Last night I took the subway up to Symphony Space, a theater on 95th St. and Broadway, to hear David Oquendo, one of the great Cuban voices and guitarists of our time. I have known David since the early 2000s through Ivan Acosta, the president of Latin Jazz USA.
David came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1991, and in 1996 he founded Raices Habaneras, an ensemble dedicated to preserving the traditions and essence of Cuban rhythms. Last night's concert was sold out, and several Latin-jazz celebrities were in the audience, including Graciela, Machito's 92-year-old sister and long-time vocalist.
David played the first half of the concert with Raices Habaneras, 11 musicians and singers who performed the three major rumba rhythms—guaguanco, yambu and columbia. Imagine a group passionately dedicated to the origins of New Orleans jazz or bebop and you get the picture. Like bebop, rumba is a generic term that refers to African-derived Cuban musical and dance forms. The rumba is the basis on which nearly all Cuban dance music is built, and each rumba last night featured traditional dancers illustrating the intricate steps and cultural subtexts.
In the second half, David's Havana Tres group of five musicians took the rumba to the next step, showing its evolution and modern interpretation. They played 10 songs with different styles and rhythms ranging from boleros (Cuban ballads) and cha-cha-chas to Son and a guajira (pronounced WA-hira). Guest artists included percussionist Candido Camero and jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd, both of whom were in terrific expressive form.
David always brings enormous energy, enthusiasm and beauty to his singing and playing. With a deeply sensitive masculine voice, David sang mostly his own compositions in the second half, including Besame Tranquila, a passionate bolero written for his wife.
David won a Grammy for Tropicana Nights with Paquito d'Rivera and has been nominated for five others. He and Rudd are releasing a duo CD in June. To learn more about Raices Habaneras, go here. To see an interview clip with David, go here.
Jazz.com. Ted Gioia, editor-in-chief of Jazz.com, continues to amaze. Since launching Jazz.com back in December, Ted has been building quite a platform and last week posted the site's 2,000th jazz track review. In addition, Ted recently managed to persuade Randy Brecker to write about his 12 favorite Freddie Hubbard [pictured] tracks. It starts on the site's home page. Neat idea, and great choices all. Check it out.
Bobby Sanabria. Last Monday, I caught Bobby Sanabria [pictured] and the Manhattan School of Music's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra performming six tracks from Machito's 1957 Kenya album at Dizzy's Coca-Cola. With the day's last bit of sun fading over Central Park behind them, the band's performance was even stronger at Dizzy's than back on April 1. The orchestra seems to grow more confident with each performance of this great album. Candido Camero was there and played on two of the songs. He even danced a bit on one. He turns 87 on April 22.
Cab Calloway. For fans of Cab Calloway, you now have a blog devoted to the eccentric bandleader. Hosted by Jean-Francois Pitet in Paris, the blog now has a "translate" button. Go here and click on the American flag atop the right-hand column. The entire site will appear in English (if only we had studied harder in high school!).
Weekend wax. Here are three terrific CDs that I have been listening to steadily this weekend:
Dodo Marmarosa Trio—Complete Studio Recordings. In recent years, much has been made of Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, John Lewis and Al Haig, and rightfully so. But lost in the bebop shuffle is Dodo Marmarosa, a gifted pianist who endured a severe beating by sailors in the mid-1940s and suffered from mental illness off and on over the years until he died in 2002. His studio work with trios in 1946-47, 1950 and 1961-62 are captured on this LoneHill Jazz double CD. Less ferocious than Powell and more eloquent and knottier than Haig, Marmarosa had a punctuating, full-keyboard approach, developing ideas in the middle and widening out to express them.
Miles From India. If you dig late 1960s and 1970s Miles Davis, this double CD adds an interesting twist. Producer Bob Belden brought together top jazz and Indian music artists for a celebration of the trumpet player. You'd think that fusing musicians like Wallace Roney, Gary Bartz, Chick Corea, Ron Carter and other jazz artists with Sridhar Parthasarthy, Selva Ganesh, Vikku Vinayakram and other Indian players would be a strange fit—barbeque meets biryani. But the merger is fascinating, and surprisingly, the two art forms fit together neatly and brilliantly. You can sample it at iTunes.
Very Saxy. Concord has just given this Prestige classic a cleaning as part of its Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series. The 1959 album features four of the toughest tenors—Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Buddy Tate, Coleman Hawkins and Arnett Cobb—backed by Shirley Scott on organ, George Duvivier on bass and Arthur Edgehill on drums. The competitive spirit and bluesy ideas on display are even more exciting on this crisp remaster.