Saturday, July 11, 2015

Born in the...(Is Allen Kanovsky going 'Bruce' on us?)

Submitted by Al Kanovsky 07/11/15

...B-R-O-N-X!!! and proud of it. 

Sammy Figueroa was born and brought up in the same east Bronx neighborhood in different eras. Sammy has become a world acclaimed 'conguero'. If I were to name all the famous players he has appeared with the list would be as long as the street in Los Angeles that is named for him. If it wasn't than it should have been. 

Yesterday at WLRN(91.3FM) studios Sammy performed with the band he calls "Sally's Tomato". It is a tribute to the music of Cal Tjader and the tune was the theme of a film "Breakfast At Tiffany's" with Audrey Hepburn. Members of the band include Cino Nunez (timbales/carranger),Charlie Santiago (bongos/rhythm), Augustin Conti (bass), Artulio Mora (piano) and the lone 'gringo' and the only one wearing a "cubavera" Brian Potts on the vibraphone. 

Most tribute bands play tunes as recorded, but this is JAZZ and Sammy. You will hear the opening melody and recognize it and then it is 'El JAZZ Puro'. As Shelly Mann once said "JAZZ musicians never play the same thing-----once". 

I had arrived in time for the sound check during which there was a problem with a monitor. It was Sammy's monitor. Sammy's tweeter was the problem. If you know Sammy he wasn't going to let that line go. He had everyone in the room rolling around with laughter at his remarks. 

Ed Bell hosts these Friday afternoon shows which are televised and broadcast live around the world. Sad to say that Ed is retiring at the end of September. His first experience with radio involved famed disc jockey Symphony Sid who helped him in his early days.

The first tune was "The Continental". The first solo was given to Brian, probably one of the most often played. My table-mates including Dr. Jules Oaklander and a record producer were all nodding their heads in approval. Each of the rest of the band took a turn and it set the tone for the rest of the program. Continental was followed by what is probably one of the most often played Latin JAZZ tunes, "Soul Sauce",(HajeeWahWah).

Incredible is the only word to describe what I heard from this group. Rhythmic patterns layer on layer. A fantastic bass solo by Augustin. Brian rollicking the vibes and Artulio quoting "Flight of the Bumble Bee" during his portion. Every shoulder in the joint was shaking and every bottom bouncing in their seat. The mood mellowed with the tune "Elantro". It gave my heart a chance to catch up with the rest of me. After a short radio break the band did "Cuban Fantasy" which gave both Artulio and Cino the opportunity to impress the audience. Which they did. The demanded encore was "Mambo Mindero" which put me back in the Palladium Ballroom, New York style. 

While I am on the subject of New York I would like to write about styles in JAZZ & BLUES. Chicago BLUES as opposed to Memphis BLUES. East Coast(New York)JAZZ in contrast to West Coast JAZZ. Think of the playing of vibraphonist Terry Gibbs vs. Cal Tjader as an example of East in contrast to West. Carlos 'Patato" Valdes against Sammy, Havana & The Bronx. Different as southern accents and western twang, Boston and New Orleans but the same language, expressing the same thoughts and feelings. I had wanted to catch the band again last nite at Arts Garage but my 83 years caught up with me. I will await their appearance at the Miami JAZZ Co-ops rent party in a couple of weeks. Check listings.

Private note: If you know me at all you know that I was 'itching' to dance. I was shot down twice by two very attractive, young women. If you can give me some advice it would be appreciated. It might be my "Pardon me Miss, would you like to dance" is outdated. Help !!!!!  

Al's Disclaimer:
A short note: The reason I write this is because I love music and words. I do not book acts. I do not promote acts. I do not accept invitations to review artists. I go to venues of my own choice. When and where is not influenced by anything other than who I would like to hear that night or day. If I don't like what I hear, I won't write about it. When I like it I let you all know. I never mention a name without asking permission. "Pardon me, Miss. Would you like to dance?" 

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