Story & Photos by Phil Onofrio - Phil Onofrio Photography, Copyright 2010
Latin star trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Arturo Sandoval appeared at Old Town School of Folk Music and the veteran performer thrilled the audience in a set filled with impressive ensemble work and surprises.
For example, in one segment of the concert - on an extended piece - Arturo moved from a brief trumpet take on the familiar "Sketches of Spain," to taking a lead vocal on a song (with my limited Spanish the song might have been named, "Dice no que hay"), to taking a turn on the timbales. On a distinctly Afro-Cuban ballad that he led on vocal, he suddenly turned to the band and urged them into a strutting funk beat - with him on keyboard and featuring a wailing solo by the alto saxophonist. Layered over that, the primary keyboardist brought in a high voltage groove reminiscent of '70s jazz funk group - The Crusaders.
Everyone expects the virtuoso trumpet attack from Arturo, but at one point in the concert - and accompanied only by bass and drums - he walked over to the piano and delivered an impeccable take on Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets in your Eyes." His playing was sparse, sensitive and inventive all at once. He literally stunned the audience.
Never lacking in a sense of humor, at one point Arturo kept running notes lower and lower on the trumpet to practically a sub-sonic levels - then gradually climbed back to nearly glass-breaking highs. He left everyone smiling with that and closed off the 7pm performance with an Afro-Cuban jazz vocal track, layered with back-up vocals by the conga player, drummer, and sax player. Arturo, at this point - not surprising to anyone - moved effortlessly from vocals, trumpet, timbales, and keyboard with the energy of four musicians.
Opening local act - pianist Darwin Noguera's Evolution, featured fiery solos from trumpet player Victor Garcia and saxophonist Rock Yera, as well as a vocal stint from te great Papi Santiago. The Evolution also displayed a solid rhythm section of drummer Juan Pastor and bassist Josh Ramos. Noguera and Garcia are the leaders of the Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble and brought the same level of care and exceptional playing to this small combo as they do to Chicago's premiere Afro-Latin big band.