March 2005

Humber Music Presents Latin Jazz Night
Featuring: Hilario Duran and Rick Lazar's Latin Jazz Ensembles
March 16, 2005Humber AuditoriumToronto

Think about it: even in the year 2005, many jazz fans tend to ignore Latin music. They might talk about Latin Jazz, or Bossa Nova, or Samba, but they usually don't listen to it.

Myself and two friends corrected this unfortunate oversight as we went with open minds and ears to Humber College for Latin Jazz Night.

We were there to hear the two featured groups, the Latin Jazz Ensemble led by pianist Hilario Duran and the Latin Jazz Ensemble directed by percussionist Rick Lazar. We already admired the music of these two leaders and were curious to hear what they'd come up with.

The host Brad Barker from Jazz.FM91 cheerfully announced on stage that contrary to what the printed programme said, Hilario Duran and his Latin Jazz Ensemble would play first. Why not? Individualism, after all, rules this stage.

So Hilario Duran opened the evening, playing solo piano on his fine and varied piece, "Tribute to Chano Pozo", the great Cuban drummer who recorded with Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.

Duran's sweep and scope of feeling, the harmonic and melodic complexity, and his exciting cross rhythms, were expressed full out. We're listening to a master musician's consciousness, and as I snapped back into focus and realized we were at a music school, it was so cool to witness that Duran is also a very supportive leader and teacher.

Then I hear a small gruff sound, that catch in the voice of singer Maya Chilton in "Yemaya Olodo", and I'm pulled back in: it's partly that lived-in vocal quality, her facial features, the side-to-side swaying clean dancing steps that are so compelling; it's Dave Anderson's trumpet solos which are models of shaped passion and it's the gut level rhythm of conga drums and shimmering cymbals; it's the scrapers and maracas that chatter and elongate the beat; and it's surely the human voice-flute-and-trumpet singing. We're in a Latin sound environment, it's haunting, and we feel very present.

Egbo Egbo Thompson


Some of Duran's players really must be singled out: for example, pianist Egbo Egbo Thompson who has already arrived. Thompson consistently soloed with imagination, authority, and a controlled furioso. Amy Medvic reminded us how important the flute is to Latin music, and her counterlines and her solos flowed ("Trinacria" and "Por Un Beso"). Tenor player Olivier Miguel and alto sax player Mike Wark contributed volcanic and inspired solos (both on "New York Minute" and "Trinacria"), and the solid drums-bass-guitar-and-percussion section of Tobi Spring guitar, Max Senitt Drums, Diego Las Heras and Daniel Menjivar percussion, and Ryan Rogers on bass, were consistently 'there'.

Hilario Duran's group played Latin Jazz, with emphasis placed on the word, jazz. Here it was: the dense harmonies, the spread out beat, and the strong soloing of jazz, fused with the rhythmic melodies and the heart-felt horn arrangements that speak Latin. It was bittersweet.

After Intermission, we heard from a very different Latin Jazz Ensemble, led by Rick Lazar of Montuno Police, who is a percussion teacher at Humber College.

This Ensemble is built around percussion and the drum. Lazar counts off the tunes and participates enthusiastically on the cowbell and the tambourim (a small hand drum), generally giving it up to the engaged horn and percussion sections. We notice this Ensemble has a thicker sound than Duran's group, with solos bubbling up from the mix of rhythm, and we find in tunes like "La Samba Me Llama" and "Misterious" that the folkloric melodies and occasionally (omnipresent) clavé beat can strictly define the ensemble's sound.

But mostly the spirited arrangements make full use of the beautiful sound of Catalina Machulec and Joshua Pedroza Alvarez on trumpets, the alto sax of Alex Andresen and the tenor sax of Dan Walsh, and there are the two vocalists, Constancia Lule and Siobhian McGovern, whose unison singing with the trumpet and flute transport us to the floating and lonesome sounds of Brazil.

When Lazar announced the tune, "Nivula Leza Kia", he attributed the arrangement to the wonderful Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. Brazilians. I perked up. Here it was, that mid-tone moan, that sexy gliding, that conversational wordless singing we've loved in the music of Airto Moreira and Flora Purim and in Chick Corea's group, Return to Forever. Lazar hits the tambourim! the horns hit!, and Alex Andresin's alto sax emerges, burning bright as an acetylene torch as the voices sing 'nana-nana-ney-o!', then silence.

The horn section filed off stage for the seventh tune, and Hilario Duran was invited up to play. Hilario is essentially a gracious man, but he simply took over. Working with the bass, drums and percussion, he dug in, amazing us with his fleet straight-fingered attack and moving us with his torrent of sound. (The name of pianist McCoy Tyner kept springing to mind.) I felt that Duran was the flow and the one who united everything. He's such a complete and compelling musician.

Catalina Machulec
On the final tune, as Avital Zemer's gentle guitar segued into a cha-cha-cha, with the horns punctuating the percussion statements, and with Tim Wayne's flute smoothly weaving in and out of the ensemble conversation, it was the two vocalists and again the human voice that brought us back home to Planet Earth.

My two friends agreed: it was a pity the auditorium wasn't fuller, but the general listening public somehow doesn't think of music schools as a place to hear music!

Humber College and U of T, to name only two schools, have a full concert year of jazz big band and jazz combos which play at the school and at clubs like The Rex in Toronto.

Look what we got to hear: Hilario Duran and Rick Lazar's Latin Jazz Ensembles at Humber College on this Wednesday night.

On Wednesday, April 13, 2005, at Humber College, 3199 Lakeshore Boulevard West, at 8:00 pm, for the price of a $10.00 ticket, you can hear Montreal singer Ranee Lee in concert with a student ensemble directed by the multi-instrumentalist, Don Thompson; plus, you can hear the Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble directed by trumpeter Denny Christianson.

Check out your local music schools. Start to listen around. You'll be glad you did.

We welcome your comments and feedback
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Report by David Fujino
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Photographs by Roger Humbert

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