[members-announce] A Jazzy Great Time in LA

RITMO! CITY ritmocity at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 26 04:28:08 EDT 2007

A Jazzy Great Time in LA
by Bobby Ramirez
LatinJazzClub Magazine

This past January I visited Los Angeles, California
for the first time. My first musical impression was
that it is a great area for Jazz. There are many Jazz
happenings in and around LA virtually every day of the
week. Ofcourse, I could not miss the chance to explore
the Latin Jazz scene.

On the week that I was there, I was fortunate to catch
the great master musician Justo Almario performing at
the Catalina Bar & Grill. This place has a nice cool
ambiance for Jazz, and the food was excellent. Justo
and his band just ripped the stage with their
energetic sound. It was a treat to watch and hear
these cats! Unfortunately, I had to leave before they
ended the set and didn't have a chance to say hello.

I was also very fortunate to catch the Banda Brothers
band (minus one of the brothers on that night) with a
group of super musicians performing at Steamers Jazz
Club located just outside of LA in Fullerton. They
where playing all kinds of Jazz. In one of the short
breaks, I introduced myself to Ramon Banda and he
graciously invited me to sit in with the band.

Ramon is a steady groover and extremely versatile in
many forms of Jazz and other styles. We performed
Dizzy's "Night in Tunisia" going from swing to Jazz
and back. The band was swinging" like mad and laid
down an amazing Afro-Cuban Jazz groove that had me
almost dancing. The Banda Brothers band is definitely
a must see-hear Jazz band for those that visit LA.

On my last day in LA, I got an unexpected call from
musician trumpet/vibraphonist Bob Desena inviting me
to sit in with his band for a set that evening. I was
delighted and accepted the invitation. The gig was in
Long Beach about half hour from LA at a place called
the Rhythm Room. I immediately rented a car, looked up
directions on the internet and headed South.

For those that never seen--or better said--experience
the artistry of musician Bob Desena; well, I for one
was amazed at his incredible versatility and technical
prowess on the trumpet and vibes. Especially on the
vibraphone, he is simply out of this world! His band
was also amazing playing Latin Jazz "con tremendo
swing" that would rebel the best Latin Jazz bands from
LA to NYC. I sat in of flute and it felt great jammin'
with Bob and the cats.

The best surprise was yet to come. Bob Desena didn't
mention that on this evening, his band was actually
opening for the top Latin Jazz band in the world:
Poncho Sanchez.

The Rhythm Room is a nice venue that probably holds
about 600 people. When we started performing, there
where maybe 20 people in the place. As we got into the
second song, I started noticing that more people began
to arrive. Suddenly through the middle of the set,
tons of people began to arrive. I'm asking myself,
"what the heck is happening?"

So I ask Bob. He says, "oh yeah, Poncho will be
performing after us." I'm like: "wow!" By the time we
finished the set, the room was jam packed, standing
room only. Later, Bob introduced me to Poncho. It was
great meeting him in person. He's a soft spoken guy
with a humble and friendly personality. 

Watching the people congregate to hear Poncho and his
great band, it felt almost like a rock concert: the
audience was spirited and in tune to Poncho's sound
and movement never missing a moment to show great
appreciation to Poncho and his swing Latin Jazz band;
applause at every corner as well as sophisticated in
the way that one would only expect from a great "Jazz"

Of course, Poncho was there to give the audience what
they wanted--and indeed he did and them-some! His
congas resonated throughout the room and the audience
seemed to savor every moment. He showed great skill
performing tasty licks on his congas. If you close
your eyes and listen to Poncho's sound, it is very
reminiscent of the greats like Mongo Santamaria.

Although his style is not rapid-fire, at times he can
get very intense and passionate. It is evident that
his true artistic power comes from his soul which has
a unique way of reaching, connecting and speaking to
his audience. And that is an essential component of a
great artist.

What a great time I had in LA! Thank you to all for
making those moments possible. I'm hoping to return
again to share more great moments. Latin Jazz is
definitely alive and well in LA! br

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