The festival jazz concert on Friday night at the Fairmont Southampton’s Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre proved a provocative listening experience for many lovers of Latin jazz.
The brilliance of Arturo O’Farrill’s instrumentalists was never in doubt as from the beginning they displayed admirable technical prowess, negotiating the challenging arrangements with ease.
Some of the arrangements were quirky — one merengue-based work that had the horns scaling consecutive peaks in a madcap chase, for example.
There were sumptuous solos, especially by trumpeter J. Sily and trombonist Rafy M. Malkil. And in the middle of the set people were asked not to turn off their phones, but to direct them to TrumpDonald.org and await a signal. It duly came and the phones captured a cacophonous moment, to what purpose one wasn’t certain. Congista Tony Rosa and bongocero Carlos Maldonado set up a sweet rumbling on their instruments to accompany the other instrumentalists, among which the leader Arturo contributed a handful of sparkling piano solos.
There were some delightful rhythmic shifts from swing to salsa and back again that occurred seamlessly.
After the intermission trumpeter Sily again excelled in the opening number that drew applause from an enthusiastic crowd and was followed by an aggressive trombone solo that delighted several members of the audience.
I was left musing about whether or not Latin jazz was following the evolutionary path of its North American progenitor by moving further and further from the needs of its dancers, as the music became more complex, as with Bebop, and became more of a listeners’ genre.
This would be a disappointing turn of events, although it’s not hard to understand why talented arrangers, given the plethora of brilliant instrumentalists at their disposal, would want to explore and exploit that resource.
The octet closed the evening out with the lovely Guajira Simple (Humble Country Woman), coming back for an encore before leaving the stage for good.
Ivan Renta, saxophone, baterista Cherico, and bass Carlos de Rosa completed the octet.