Jazz City Chicago
Latin Jazz Fest

Humboldt Park Boathouse
Chicago, IL
July 13, 2007
Richie Pillot Havana

Story and Photos by Brad Walseth

Pianist Darwin Noguera recently gave an interview with the Jazz Institute, in which he called for the various cultures within jazz to come together. As leader of the Evolution Trio, co-founder of the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble, and one of the finest young Latin jazz keyboard players in the city, Darwin is in a position to understand that Chicago is home to many exceptional Latin jazz musicians. Yet the jazz community is as fractured and segregated as the city is as a whole, and Latinos, African-Americans and European-American elements uneasily coexist together, without a true feeling of acceptance amogst the disparate groups.

Humboldt Park's beautifully restored Boathouse was the scene for a celebration of Latin jazz music Friday night, and 3 highly-talented bands performed before a nice crowd in a night when light cool breezes wafted across the lake and the Sears Tower could be seen in the distance.

' Noguera's "Evolution Trio" opened up and featured its leader's deft, Chick Corea-influenced keyboard work. Noguera is a student of Latin and Cuban styles and is growing immensely as a composer with his new songs fusing a new and inviting mix of styles together succesfully. Bassist Victor Miranda impressed the crowd with his brilliantly melodic and sensitive bass solos and joyful vocals, while drummer Charles "Rick" Heath nearly set the boathouse on fire with his light-speed solos.

"Conjunto" followed and featured violinist James Sanders in the spotlight. Backed by a wonderful rhythm section of Jean Leroy on drums, Joe Rendon on percussion, Jose Porcayo on bass and Donald Neale on piano, Sanders delighted the crowd with his gypsy flamboyance. Contributing much to the success of this set was Steve Eisen on sax and flute, who, like a fine wine, just keeps getting better and better.

Eisen also appeared with the third act of the night the incendiary "Havana." For those who haven't seen or heard this group yet, I highly recommend them. Led by bassist Richie Pillot, this highly energetic and entertaining combo had the crowd smiling and dancing along to the addictive rhythms. Eisen again shone, as did stellar trombonist Craig Sunken. Trumpeter Victor Garcia proved again he is an upcoming star, and Joe Farau kept things moving on the timbales. And as always it is a treat to watch the multi-talented Rob Block accompany himself on the keyboards while ripping off some excellent guitar licks.

Hats off to the Jazz Institute for putting on this wonderful show. Let's hope Darwin's dream of a united jazz community can come to fruition.

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Contact Brad Walseth and JazzChicago.net at bwalseth60@aol.com

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