March 13, 2008
Netflix is now as much a part of my life as espresso or Google or my bike. Sadly, I rarely go to the movies anymore (or to the cinema for that matter). There are a million reasons for that, and that's not the point of this post, anyway. Netflix has a lot of the movies my video store doesn't. This week, that included "Our Latin Thing," the documentary of the Fania All Stars.At the center of the film is the insanely raucous music from a group that has no real parallel in music. Imagine a jazz group consisting of Monk, Mingus, Miles, Coltrane, Diz, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hartman, with arrangements by Quincy Jones, under the direction of Duke Ellington. The Fania All Stars is kinda like that, only for salsa music. This film, shot in 1972, captures Salsa in its earliest manifestations and confirms that, while it is Latino at its core, it is, in the end, American music.
You can judge the music for yourself in the clip below, but what is as striking as the music in this film is how it captures Latino New York, circa 1972, warts and all. Marvel at how routinely filthy the streets of New York were then. Cringe at the obvious cheesecake shots from the randy cameraman. Let your jaw drop at the totally gross basement cock fight (captured from opening bell to ignoble end). This is a raw, unfiltered look at the Nueva Yawk of my youth, from junkies, to drunks, to bad-ass dancers in skin-tight hot pants!
Ray Barretto's here, as are Hector Lavoe, Willy Colon, Johnny Pacheco, El Condo, Santo Colon, Larry Harlowe and "the Spanish-speaking people of New York City." As a piece of history, this is an invaluable find for a cultural anthropologist, and as a concert film, it will shake your maraca. David Cruz
© 2008 WBGO
March 12, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
I am a city dweller, plagued by the New Yorker bias. That is, I very rarely go to New Jersey for anything other than to work at WBGO. However, I am not so entrenched that I won't shake my preconceptions for the right set of circumstances. So last night, I ventured to SOPAC for a performance from the SF Jazz Collective, a pride of eight musicians of the highest caliber.
Each year, the collective features original commissions, as well as arrangements of a noted modern jazz composer. This season, the band turns their all-seeing eye on composer and saxophonist (and Newark native) Wayne Shorter.
The end of time was the beginning of the set. Saxophonist Miguel Zenon's arrangement of Shorter's "Armegeddon" set us on the trailhead.
Here's what followed:
This That and the Other - a Joe Lovano original
The Angel's Share - penned by Matt Penman, a New Zealand import
Diana - from Shorter's Native Dancer, arranged by Renee Rosnes
Go - Stefon Harris arranged this Shorter composition with some backbeat boom bap. Great way to end the first half.
The second set pushed ahead into the abstract, modern aesthetic that makes the collective such a great band to hear. Drummer Eric Harland's "The Year 2008" set the tone, a composition built around a recorded vocal chant, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Rosnes' "Aurora Borealis" followed. Trumpeter Dave Douglas contributed "Secrets of the Code," an original work that used snippets of Wayne Shorter's music as source code embedded as a thread throughout the composition. Great stuff. The newest member of the collective, trombonist Robin Eubanks, ended the evening with his arrangement of Shorter's "Black Nile."
Only two complaints. The piano monitor levels in the house made the trombone articulation inaudible. That's just the music nerd in me. The other issue is this: I could not hear all of the band's repertoire in a single night. The SF Jazz Collective had more music in the kitty, but I'll have to see them again to hear the rest. Will do.
© 2008 WBGO