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Beyond Salsa Piano - Instructional Series

Tom Ehrlich - 9/19/2008


MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA
SEPTEMBER 19, 2008

TEXT BY JOHN BENJAMIN AND TOM EHRLICH
PHOTOS BY TOM EHRLICH © 2008

cuban music, musica cubana
Orlando "Maraca" Valle on the Main Stage with "Cuban Lullabies"Project


Its hard to believe that the 51st annual Monterey Jazz Festival, which takes place each year at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California, was better than last year's 50th Anniverary festival. This three day festival features a wide variety of some of the greatest musicians in the world. This year was no exception. Although the Monterey festival is usually a little light on Afro-caribbean music, there are always at least a few great latin music bands. Traditionally the latin music headliner plays on Friday night. This year it was an all star band lead by the fabulous Cuban flutist, composer, arranger and band leader, Orlando "Maraca" Valle, who closed out the Friday night main stage show. In spite of a steady light rain during Maraca's performance, many of the crowd stayed throughout the set and were rewarded by some beautiful, clave based music. The name of the project was "Cuban Lullabies" consisting mostly of new, original compositions by Maraca. The Friday night concert and the concert on Saturday night (Maraca performed twice) were recorded in anticipation of the Monterey Jazz Festival releasing a live recording some time in the future.

This incredible project consisted of the cream of the crop of Afro-caribbean jazz musicians plus the Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra (consisting of eight string instruments and a conductor). The core band was Puerto Rican saxophone standouts David Sánchez and Miguel Zenón, great Puerto Rican bassist John Benitez, Giovanni Hidalgo (from Puerto Rico), considered by many to be the finest conguero in the world today, on congas and timbales, Horacio "El Negro" Hernández, the incomparable Cuban drummer on drum set, outstanding Venezuelan pianist Edward Simon, Murray Low, a fantastic keyboard player from Santa Cruz, California, on electric keyboards and one of the finest flutists and band leaders in the world today, Orlando "Maraca" Valle. Most of these musicians are leaders of their own groups and all have been on numerous recordings and all are comfortable in dance music contexts and well as jazz. This was truly an all star band. The music consisted of beautiful melodies and arrangements mixed with strong solos and moving afro-caribbean rhythms. Photographs of the Friday night performance follows.


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Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars
Back row from left to right Juan Maldonado (bass), Abraham Olivo (piano),
Niv Toar (trumpet), Middle red shirt - Enrique "Kalani" Trinidad (flute)
Front left Paulo Stagnaro (congas); Front middle Marcos López (drum set/timbales)

One of the big surprises of this years festival, was a group of young music students from the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachuttes. The Berklee Latin Jazz All Stars impressed a large crowd with their professional level skills, blistering solos and their swinging tighness. With graduation still ahead, these all stars have extensive performance and recording experience. Their performance was simply superb and you surely will hear from these guys in the future. The members of the group are listed below the photo above.

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Niv Toar (trumpet); Juan Maldonado (bass); Paulo Stagnaro (congas); Marcos López (drum set/timbales)

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Kalani Trinidad, flute and Niv Toar, trumpet

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Juan Maldonado, bass

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Abraham Olivo, piano

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Kalani Trinidad, flute

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Marcos López, drum set/timbales

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Kalani Trinidad, flute and Niv Toar, trumpet

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Abraham Olivo, piano and Kalani Trinidad, flute

cuban music, musica cubana
Marcos López

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Kalani Trinidad, flute and Niv Toar, trumpet

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Guest trumpeter (also from Berklee School of Music) Aaron Bahr and Paulo Stagnaro, congas

cuban music, musica cubana
Juan Maldonado, bass; Paulo Stagnaro, congas; Kalani Trinidad, flute

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Abraham Olivo, piano

While waiting for Maraca's "Cuban Lullabies" project to start, checked out a few interesting non-latin groups. First there was Spencer Day, singer, pianist, who has pop star potential and the amazing clarinet and sax player Anat Cohen. Anat is originally from Israel, where she had formal music training, then to Berklee School of Music in Boston and now lives in New York. She is an extremely talented musician who plays with a lot of emotion. Part of her set included a nice version of the Cuban standard - "Siboney" by Ernesto Lecuona.

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Spencer Day, vocals

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Spencer Day, vocals; Scott Amendola, drums

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Anat Cohen

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Anat Cohen, clarinet

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Anat Cohen, tenor sax

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Jason Linder, piano; Anat Cohen, clarinet

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Jason Linder, piano; Anat Cohen

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Anat Cohen

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Anat Cohen

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Anat Cohen

Preceding Maraca on the main stage, Cassandra Wilson, one of the great jazz vocalists on today's scene, treated the crowd with her refreshing style and voice.

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Cassandra Wilson

MARACA AND THE CUBAN LULLABIES PROJECT

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Maraca

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Miguel Zenón, sax; Maraca. flute

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Miguel Zenón, John Benitez, bass; Maraca; David Sánchez, sax

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Edward Simon, piano

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Murray Low, keyboards and Maraca on screen

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Maraca, flute and Giovanni Hildalgo, congas on screen

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Maraca, flute on screen and Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra
Hiding in the back, one of the great drummers Horacio "El Negro" Hernández on drum set

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Miguel Zenón, sax; John Benitez, bass; Maraca, flute

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Maraca, David Sánchez, and Murray Low

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John Benitez, bass and guess who on flute

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Miguel Zenón, Maraca, David Sánchez

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Maraca, chékere

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Maraca and band thanking the crowd

This report will be followed by a report and photos of the Saturday and Sunday music at the Monterey Jazz Festival soon. It will include more on Maraca's Cuban Lullabies Project, Rebeca Mauleón & Afro Kuban Fusion, Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, Maceo Parker, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Nancy Wilson, Kurt Elling, Christian McBride Quintet and Herbie Hancock.

Monday, 24 December 2012, 09:42 AM