MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Pay Tribute to the Music of Puerto Rico, 3/27

The multi-Grammy-nominated Manhattan School of Music AFRO-CUBAN JAZZ ORCHESTRA, conducted by Bobby Sanabria, pays tribute to LA ISLA DEL ENCANTO (PUERTO RICO) with works by Rafael Hernandez, Bobby Capo, Juan Tizol, Ricardo Pons, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Santos' monumental Puerto Rican Suite, and more! Special Guests will include members of Danza Fiesta and noted poet/performer Mariposa Fernández.

The Puerto Rican community in New York City has been transformative. From dance, theater, literature, education, politics, poverty, art, and, especially, music, the pulse of the city reflects the great contributions of a place that has become known simply as the island of enchantment. In the 20th century, Puerto Ricans were in the vanguard, opening doors for subsequent Latino immigrant communities to the United states. Puerto Rican music helped to redefine Afro-Cuban big band mambo with jazz in the 1950's with the contributions of legendary bandleaders like Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Cesar Concepcion. In the 1960's they redefined the Cuban conjunto sound with a brash in your face attitude that became known the world over as "salsa," but they also created new hybrid forms, such as the fusion of R&B with cha-cha-cha, son montuno, and guajira, that brought African Americans and Latinos together in what became known as Latin Boogaloo. Artists like Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera, and Raul Julia became Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony winners.

In the world of jazz, 18 Puerto Rican musicians were part of the legendary 369th Harlem Hellfighters U.S. Army Regimental Band (directed by James Reese Europe), the first group to expose European audiences to early jazz and ragtime. One of its members was Puerto Rican trombonist Rafael Hernandez, who would eventually become one of Latin America's most beloved composers. Trombonist Juan Tizol contributed seminal compositions to the Duke Ellington Orchestra, pieces like "Caravan," "Peridido," and "Moon Over Cuba," while pianist Roger "Ram" Ramirez co-wrote the 1944 standard, "Lover Man." Sammy Davis Jr. always proudly reminded audiences that he was half Puerto Rican, as did comedian Freddie Prinze. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor continues the legacy of Puerto Rico's contribution to American society.

Now seven-time Grammy nominee and native Nuyorican Bobby Sanabria leads the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra in a FREE CONCERT honoring his ancestral homeland and its New York community. The repertoire will include a virtual kaleidoscope of Puerto Rican musical styles opening with the multiple movements of Mosaico Puertoriqueno. Contemporary treatments of Hernandez's "Cachita" and Tizol's "Caravan" (featuring arrangements by MSM alumnus Dr. Jeremy Fletcher) and Hernandez's "El Cumbanchero" (featuring an arrangement by MSM alumnus, trumpeter Andrew Neesely) explore Puerto Rican forms such as bomba yuba, and plena. Contemporary works will include Ricardo Pons' "El Lider," which features a fusion of the Afro-Puerto Rican bomba grasima style with funk. The monumental three-movement, Suite For Puerto Rico, by legendary big band composer and arranger Ray Santos, will also figure into the program and feature native musical forms like the danza and seis chorreao, concluding with the majestic jazz mambo that Puerto Ricans first heard when they frequented New York ballrooms like the Palladium in Manhattan and The Hunts Point Palace in the Bronx. Featured will be dancers from the critically acclaimed New York based Puerto Rican folkloric dance company, Danza Fiesta.

The evening's special guest - poet, artist, and author - Mariposa Fernández, will read from her epic poem, Ode To The Diasparican. It will serve as the introduction to NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri's majestic Grammy-winning tribute to the island, "Puerto Rico," arranged by MSM alumnus Takao Heisho, who will also be performing on congas with the orchestra.

This special MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra concert is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC; tickets are not required. For information, call (917) 493 4428, or visit Manhattan School of Music is located at the northwest corner of 122nd Street and Broadway, and is accessible by public transportation. By Subway: The No. 1 train stops at 116th Street and Broadway, and 125th Street and Broadway. By Bus: routes M5, M4, M104, M60, and M11 all stop within close proximity (M5 on Riverside Drive, the M4 and M104 on Broadway, and the M60 and M11 on Amsterdam Avenue).

Bobby Sanabria, the multiple Grammy-nominated drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, conductor, bandleader, and multi-cultural warrior, has performed and recorded with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Paquito D'Rivera, Ray Barretto, Candido, Henry Threadgill, Larry Harlow, and Afro-Cuban Jazz godfather Mario Bauzá. His first solo recording, N.Y.C. Aché', has become a cult classic. His first big band recording, Live & in Clave!!!, was nominated for a mainstream Grammy in 2001. In 2003 he was nominated for a Latin Grammy for 50 Years of Mambo - A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado. Mr. Sanabria's 2005 Quarteto Aché' disc was hailed by the critics as giving a new vision to the standard jazz quartet. The readers of DRUM! Magazine named him Percussionist of the Year in 2006. His re­cording, Big Band Urban Folktales, was a 2008 Grammy nominee and won the Jazz Journalists Association's "Latin Jazz CD of the Year" Award. This South Bronx native of Puerto Rican parentage is a 2006 inductee into the Bronx Walk of Fame where he has a street named after him. His 2009 CD, Kenya Revisited Live!!!, is a re-imagining of the legendary Kenya album by the Machito Afro-Cubans and features NEA Jazz Master Candido with incredible new arrangements. This CD, with Mr. Sanabria conducting the MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orches­tra, was nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Latin Jazz recording. His subsequent CD, Tito Puente Masterworks LIVE!!!, with the MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, was also nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2011. Mr. Sanabria has been on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music for 19 years and at the New School for 23 years. He leads several ensembles: Quarteto Aché', Ascensión, and the Bobby Sanabria Big Band. In 2011 and 2013 Mr. Sanabria was named Percussionist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. He was associate producer of the television documentaries, The Palladium: Where Mambo Was King and From Mambo to Hip Hop. Mr. Sanabria is featured in the documentary, Latin Music USA, which aired on PBS in October 2009. In 2013, he was honored with the Puerto Rican Heritage Award by Comite' Noviembre, a leading Puerto Rican organization, for his works as an activist in helping to restore the Latin Jazz Category to the mainstream Grammys. His recording, the critically acclaimed double-Grammy-nominated Multiverse, was released in August 2012 on the Jazzheads label. His latest Jazzheads CD, ¡Que Viva Harlem!, with the MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, was released on April 8, 2014.

The MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, a multi-Grammy-nominated ensemble that is under the direction of Bobby Sanabria, has been internationally recognized for its recordings on the Jazzheads label, as well as for performances at its home at Manhattan School of Music, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and at prestigious jazz conferences. In October 2012, the orchestra honored the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce with a concert that celebrated current and past performance venues that have called Harlem home. In 2009, they released the critically acclaimed Grammy-nominated CD, Kenya Revisited Live!!! This CD also features NEA Jazz Master Candido Camero and was recorded at a historic concert held at MSM in 2008 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Machito & The Afro-Cubans' 1957 jazz masterwork, Kenya. In 2011, the MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, under Maestro Sanabria's leadership, released the critically acclaimed Latin Grammy nominated CD, Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! Of the recording, Audiophile Audition said, "The Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra is unrecognizable as a student ensemble. The soloists are of such a high level that none of them emerge as more memorable than the others."

The MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra and Bobby Sanabria have performed sold-out shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and in New York City jazz venues such as Birdland and the Jazz Standard, as well as on the plaza of the Harlem State Office Building. Guest artists appearing with the ensemble have included NEA Jazz Masters Ray Barretto and Candido Camero. Others include Sonny Fortune, Tom Harrell, Arturo O'Farrill, Ronnie Cuber, and David Sanchez, among many others. The MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra and Bobby Sanabria are dedicated to performing the music of 'la tradición,' paying homage to these legends while continuing to pass on and advance the tradition to the next generation. Bobby Sanabria and the MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra's newest CD, ¡Que Viva Harlem!, was released on the Jazzheads label on April 8, 2014, to critical acclaim. Scott Yanow, reviewing the CD for Downbeat magazine wrote that "the MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra sounds very much like an authentic Latin jazz orchestra (perhaps Machito's) from the mid-1950s. The soloists sound mature and lively, while the ensemble passages are filled with a joyous team spirit."

Mariposa Fernández is an award winning poet, artist, and author whose poetry has been featured on the HBO Latino series, Habla Ya!, and the critically acclaimed HBO documentary Americanos: Latino Life in the US, as well as having been featured on the BET, Lifetime, and PBS networks. Mariposa has performed at universities and major venues throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and abroad, including the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, the 7th Annual Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, Black Enterprise's 7th Annual Women of Power Summit, the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., and the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations in New York City.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Mariposa was born María Teresa Fernández. She is a proud Puerto Rican whose work demonstrates pride in her Nuyorican and Afro-Latina/o roots and a deep commitment to her community. Mariposa graduated from New York University with a BA in Women's Studies, concentrating in English Literature, and an MA in Bilingual Special Education. Mariposa is the author of Born Bronxeña: Poems on Identity, Love & Survival. She has also been published in Breaking Ground: Puerto Rican Women Writers from New York 1980-2012, The Afro Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, Def Poetry Jam's Bumrush the Page, The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature El Centro Journal, The Hostos Review, Resistance in Paradise: 100 Years of U.S. Colonialism, and Drum Voices Volume 23, among others.

Danza Fiesta was founded in New York City in 1998 by Gilda Rivera-Pantoja with the sole purpose of sharing Puerto Rican culture with the rest of the world. The company has been fulfilling its mission through workshops, community programs, performances, and lecture-demonstrations of Puerto Rican folklore and dance. The company features over 30 members, including dancers, musicians, costume designers, and creative contributors making the study of Puerto Rican folklore and popular traditions accessible to all people.

Jazz Arts at MSM - Manhattan School of Music is one of the first conservatories in the United States to acknowledge the importance of jazz as an art form by establishing undergraduate and graduate degree programs in jazz. It is also one of the richest programs of its kind, thanks to systematic and rigorous conservatory training combined with a myriad of performance and networking opportunities in New York City. In addition to a variety of small combos, student performing ensembles include the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Philhar­monic, and Chamber Jazz Orchestra. Under the leadership of longtime faculty member and eminent jazz artist-and-educator Justin DiCioccio, the program strives to produce students who perform, compose, and teach with equal facility and passion.

The Jazz Arts Administrative team includes Justin DiCioccio, Associate Dean and Chair; Chris Rosenberg, Manager of Jazz Administration; Stephanie Crease, Senior Coordinator; and Andrew Neesley, Assistant Coordinator.

Photo Credit: Brian Hatton

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