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Quarteto Ache & Dr. Jose Cruz (second from left)

Jazz/Latino, Inc.
First Unitarian Society of Schenectady
Schenectady, NY
May 25, 2007

by Tom Pierce

Master drummer Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché descended on the Whisperdome of the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady like a musical force of nature, Friday May 25, 2007. This was the last in a series of three Latin Jazz concerts produced by the welcome new organization, Jazz/Latino Inc, headed by Dr Jose Cruz. It provided most Capitol District Jazz lovers their first opportunity to witness in person the sheer talent, drive, complexity and charisma that has resulted in so many awards and high level engagements with numerous Jazz & Latin luminaries over the last 25 years, for this South Bronx native of Puerto Rican parents.

In addition to his galvanizing leadership presence on the drum set, additional percussion and vocals, the quartet included Jeff Lederer on Tenor & Soprano Saxes and Flute; Enrique Haneine on piano and Alex Hernández on bass. Noted as a well versed historian, Sanabria opened the first song by reciting the rich, winding legacy of the music from Central and North Africa to the Caribbean, New Orleans and New York.

While most would classify the genre as “Latin Jazz”, one could make a case for it being termed “Jazz International”. Although the shifting, intoxicating rhythms of the various songs played clearly owed much to the Afro-Cuban tradition, this observer heard an equal or even stronger influence of Be-Bop and an occasional hint of the Avante Garde. The ghost of legendary Bop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, whose ground-breaking explorations and unification in 1947 of Afro-Cuban music with Jazz, hung over the proceedings, all evening; but the spirits of John Coltrane and drummer Art Blakey were also very much present - both in the music itself, and also the level of intensity and swing.

However, it would be a mistake to assume this enormously exciting music, which dynamically often rose from a soft whisper to a surging volcano, wasn't melodic or well controlled, as indeed it consistently was. Pianist Haneine played engrossing, impressionistic solos and accompaniment that were simply beautiful, and Lederer's horn work, in all the various tempos, was very moving; but not harsh or strident. And for all his formidable technique, Bobby Sanabria displayed considerable subtlety matching the mood each song called for.

Also very arresting was Sanabria's soulfully passionate singing and chanting while playing - no mean feat, given the invigorating colors and effects he used the full drum set to produce. This certainly added to the often spiritual quality of the performance, which was appropriate, given the venue being a church. He alluded to this in quoting Art Blakey that “wherever Jazz is played, is sacred ground”.

Although he rarely provided song titles, he effectively held the audience's attention, not only with the vivid pictures and scenes this special music conjured up, but also his own humorously entertaining and insightfully descriptive repartee. A few attendees may have felt his frequent exhortations to stand, clap and at the end, to dance the Merenge, could have been cut back a bit. But the fact that the majority responded enthusiastically, indicated that the music was energetically compelling, as well as of very high quality.

One must extend grateful kudos to Dr Cruz and all involved in Jazz/Latino, Inc for bringing our community this rewarding music.

Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 45 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland the last 5 years, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz and the SwingTime Society in a variety of ways.