May 2007

Luis Mario Ochoa's Humber College Latin Jazz Big Band
May 15, 2007 Lula Lounge Toronto
School’s Out – Fasten Your Seatbelts
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
The room filled mainly with fellow students and parents as The Humber College Latin Jazz Big Band prepared for their nightclub debut. It was a good turnout but I found myself thinking it’s too bad there aren’t more unrelated music lovers in the audience. These young players are a must-hear.
The Humber College Latin Jazz Big Band led by their teacher, well-known musician Luis Mario Ochoa, gave a concert in early March this year as part of the College’s regular series — and blew everyone away. The emcee for the evening, radio host and musician Amanda Martinez, was so impressed she said afterwards “Wow! This band should go on tour.” And that is more or less what Luis Mario Ochoa did, arranging for his students to play at the best-known club for Latin music in Toronto, Lula Lounge.

What a show it was, starting hot right out of the gate with Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca”. It was powerful, punchy, percussion-rich and of course, brassy and bold with notable trombone, trumpet and baritone solos and great ensemble work. Perez Prado’s “Mambo à la Kenton” was great fun and fully confident, as exciting as only a twenty-piece band can make it. This was a Paquito D’Rivera arrangement, but, as with all of the pieces, transcribed (copied from recordings) by the students. Hmm, chops and ears.

“Las Cuarentas” was the first vocal of the evening, introducing us to the incredibly rich and truly outstanding voice of Jordan John. The only thing that betrayed the fact that he is still a student was his obvious youth and a certain awkwardness. The awkwardness more or less melted away when further into the evening he sang a gorgeous “Como Fue” that also melted the audience.

Bebo Valdes’ “Cachao, creador del mambo” featured some excellent soloing on trumpet, against a strong groove held by the rest of the band, some exciting bongo popping to the front from Lorie Wolf, a sensuous sax solo from La-Nai Gabriel and a piano solo from Marco de la Cruz that was simultaneously melodic and percussive. Mario Bauza’s “Mambo Inn” carried on the mambo groove with an opportunity for all of the trumpet players to solo.

Stephanie Tavares made her first appearance on stage singing “Que me Castigue Dios”, or as Luis Mario Ochoa explained in English “Let God punish me if I go back to that guy again”. Not only does Tavares have a great voice but she also has a seemingly relaxed and natural stage presence and an ability to get “inside” the song. Her second piece, ”Hay Que Saber Perder”, later in the evening was just as enjoyable.

Bebo Valdes' “Copla no 4” was an instrumental tour de force with flawless changes of tempo and rhythm and deep steady bass. Tito Puente’s “Dance Mania” was played at high speed and featured a ripping guitar solo from Phil Tesis. Even faster was Hilario Duran’s “Mambo Influenciado” which Ochoa warned us about, telling us to fasten our seatbelts. Duran himself reportedly told Ochoa he couldn’t make the band play the tune that fast but he did and they proved to be up to it. What’s more, they looked like they were having a great time!

Of course, the audience was not willing to let the band leave the stage and their demand for an encore was successful. It was Benny Moré’s “Como Arrullo de palma”, masterfully sung by Luis Mario Ochoa, beautifully backed by the Humber College Latin Jazz Big Band.

Jordan John

Luis Mario Ochoa
My critical words for this show? A little too short!
The musicians
Luis Mario Ochoa – leader & voice

Jordan John – voice
Stephanie Tavares – voice

Carlos Aguilera – congas
Lorie Wolf – bongos, cowbell
Santino de Villa – timbales (soloist)
Marco de la Cruz – piano (soloist)
Phil Tesis – guitar (soloist)
Ben Miller – bass

Peter Kim – trumpet
Joshua Pedroza Alvarez – trumpet
Jon Challoner – trumpet (soloist)
Corrie Alexander – trumpet
Catalina Machulec – trumpet

La-Nai Gabriel – tenor sax (soloist)
Allison Au – alto sax (soloist)
Michael Wark – alto sax (soloist)
Dominique Morier – tenor sax (soloist)
Phil Skladowski – baritone sax (soloist)

Nathan Dell -Vandeberg – trombone (soloist)
Sylvain Bedard – trombone (soloist)
Christopher Butcher – trombone (soloist)
Daniel Corbett – bass trombone (soloist)

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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