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New School University Afro-Cuban Orchestra

- Jazz and Cabaret Corner

Jazz and Cabaret Performance Reviews

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

New School University
Afro-Cuban Orchestra
(Website)
At Birdland
315 West 44th Street, NYC
212.581.3080
www.birdlandjazz.com
Gianni Valenti, Owner
Andy Kaufman, Business Manager
Tarik Osman, Manager

Bandleader: Bobby Sanabria
www.bobbysanabria.com

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 16, 2004

With a full Latin orchestra, replete with trombones, trumpets, saxophones, piano, guitar, drums, Latin percussion, vocals, and more, one would think we were at the Copacabana, preparing for a monumental mambo. One would never know this was a student orchestra, part of New School University in Greenwich Village, NY, except for the fact that the musicians had the fresh-faced and eager demeanor of very poised and talented students. Moreover, Bobby Sanabria, Bandleader, was frequently at the mike, giving the packed audience juicy tidbits about African and Cuban rhythms and the roots of this jazz genre. Sanabria also encouraged the Latin jazz fans to clap in clave rhythm, to increase applause for individual student musicians, and even to sing in Spanish and "scat".

The opening Salsa rhythms were especially appreciated by my guest, Rosa Collantes, a well known Salsa and Tango performer/teacher. The orchestra's pieces were danceable, reminiscent of Machito and much of Jose Alberto's music. Heat Wave brought Sanabria into dance language, as he led his musicians with his swiveling hips and snapping arms. Sanabria is a hands-on leader, who travels into the midst of the orchestra to focus on solo or duo musicians. He's always on and plays a variety of Latin percussion and even the orchestra's drums, mid-song. Chico O'Farrill's Pura Emoción featured a sax soloist, whose twin brother was simultaneously featured on trombone. Their interpretation was mature and powerful. A young vocalist sang Besame Mucho with a sweet sound, as one sax took a lengthy solo variation. This piece was arranged by Jeremy Fletcher, and the trombone-sax conversations were engaging and energetic.

Sanabria told us, "Jazz represents freedom." He referred to Duke Ellington's It Don't Mean a Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing. Then Sanabria led the audience in singing a "Doo Wop" refrain along with a sax solo. Sanabria also referenced Tito Puente, among others, and the orchestra treated us to Ran Can Can, with an ecstatic energy level. After all, these are youthful and high-energy musicians. Green Dolphin Street was vivacious and virulent, with Sanabria's ever so strong stage presence and obvious educational and emotional support for his students. Sanabria's "scat" vocals included what he called "Spanglese". A wild, wooly trombone solo was accompanied with Sanabria's comments about the BA in Jazz that these students were completing. A guest trombonist from the original Woody Herman Big Band was acknowledged during this first set, as well.

The second set included "Cubalsa". Dizzy Gillespie was acknowledged, as the orchestra dove into Groovin' High, a sassy, brassy work. There was a trumpet solo here that made me think twice to realize that yes, this was a student orchestra. That's All Right and Birthday for Jose were followed by a repeat of Green Dolphin Street, with Sanabria walking onstage to charismatically conduct separate orchestral sections. The one female musician, a bassist from Cuba, was showcased just before congas, drums, and the final blast of Latin fireworks, with tonal and atonal, but always danceable, rhythms. At this point, I wished for a dance floor and partners for myself and for my guest, Rosa Collantes.

Kudos to Gianni Valenti for supporting emerging musical talent from the universities and professional music schools. Bobby Sanabria's New School University Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra is preparing the jazz stars of the future.


New School University Afro-Cuban Orchestra
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Saxophonist
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Trombones and Trumpets
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Bobby Sanabria
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Saxophonist
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Pianist
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Guitarist
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Trombones
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Saxophones
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Bobby Sanabria
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Muted Trombone
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Vocalist
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Saxophonist
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Saxophones
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Rosa Collantes, Guest
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



The Orchestra Is Playful
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



The Orchestra Is Playful
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Saxophonist
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Tarik and Rosa
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Rosa and Roberta
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



Rosa and Bobby Sanabria
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net