Latin Jazz Festival: West Meets Midwest
One of the great things about Afro-Cuban music is how rewardingly it spawns different styles, colors and voicings in different regional settings. For years, California has been a hotbed of individualized salsa, Latin jazz and related forms, traditional and modern. And one of that scene’s shining stars is percussionist and bandleader John Santos, whose appearance at this year’s 10th anniversary installment of JazzCity’s ever more impressive Latin Jazz Festival will help make it even more special.
A native San Franciscan, Santos is no stranger to Chicago, having played here often. This time, he will serve double duty in spreading the gospel of Latin music. In addition to leading his acclaimed sextet on Friday July 15 at the Boathouse, he will present a must-attend talk and demonstration on Cuban music history Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. His presentation is entitled “My Music Is Who I Am.”
Who Santos is otherwise is a five-time Grammy nominee who has played with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente and from 2013-14 was resident artistic director of SFJAZZ, the esteemed Bay Area jazz institution and venue.
Leading a succession of great bands, including Orquesta Tipica Cienfuegos, Orquesta Batachanga, the Grammy-nominated Machete Ensemble and his sextet, he has steadily broadened his concept, collaborating with musicians from Cuba, Puerto Rico and New York.
Said JazzTimes, Santos has been “a sparkplug for a wave of musical invention at the vortex where Jazz, Latin and other ideas meet.”
Friday’s bill is rounded out by Chicago’s Havana Kings, led by timbalero Carlos Garcia, which combines Latin jazz standards, salsa and descarga, and one of the city’s most acclaimed and exciting young bands, Chinchano. Under the direction of innovative percussionist Juan Pastor, who specializes in blending modern jazz and Peruvian folk, they will draw upon their superb recent album, Un Cambio. It features compositions by Pastor and pianist Stu Mindeman.
Saturday night’s headlining act, Joe Rendon & Friends, is an exuberant local quintet led by the seasoned conga player, who has played with such greats as Paquito D’Rivera and Aretha Franklin. They’ll be preceded by Latin Inspiration, led by trombonist John Rodriguez and featuring trumpeter Victor Garcia, and Hector Silveira y Su Orquesta, which offers an up-to-the-minute take on Cuban music in all its permutations.
As ever at this joyous event, Saturday afternoon is devoted to families. The musical offerings will include the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra – Steel Orchestra; the Puerto Rican Bomba youth performing troupe Arawak’Opia (Dance of our Ancestors) from the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, and a martial arts demonstration by the
International Capoeira Angola Foundation.
From noon on, there also will be cultural events for the whole family, including games and arts & crafts. Community organizations will be on hand to show off their works and involve festgoers in music and dancing.
Here is the complete schedule for the 10th Chicago Latin Jazz Festival:
Thursday, July 14:
John Santos, “My Music Is Who I Am” – 7 PM, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, 4046 W. Armitage (773-698 -6003).
Friday, July 15:
7 PM Havana Kings
8 PM Chinchano
9 PM John Santos Sextet
Saturday, July 16
1:30 PM International Capoeira Angola Foundation
2:30 PM Arawak’Opia
3:30 PM Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra – Steel Orchestra
5:30 PM Latin Inspiration
6:30 PM Hector Silveira y Su Orquesta
7:30 PM Joe Rendon & Friends
JazzCity is a free concert series initiated in 1997 by the Jazz Institute in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, now in its 19th season of bringing people together from across the city to listen to Chicago’s top jazz musicians. JazzCity is sponsored by WDCB 90.9 FM and WHPK 88.5 FM Radio and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.