Jazzin’ Up the Music Hall

September 28, 2010

The Charleston Jazz Orchestra in full swing

In true Southern fashion, the crowd slowly trickled into the Charleston Music Hall Saturday night to attend “Latin Night,” the fourth concert of the 2010 season by the renowned Charleston Jazz Orchestra.

Led by conductor and accomplished trumpeter Charlton Singleton, the CJO has garnered steady attention and accolades since its inception in early 2008 with rousing performances and a stream of high-profile special guests sharing the stage.

This night was no exception.

Although the program stated that the music would begin promptly at 7 p.m., emcee Jack McCray did not take the stage until 20 minutes later to officially get the night’s events underway.

McCray’s onstage demeanor set the tone for the night, as he invited the capacity crowd to sit back, relax and “take some dust off of the day.”

Singleton soon entered to a loud ovation and chatted with the crowd, offering previews of what his group had in store for the night and down the road before kicking things off with Duke Ellington’s “Flaming Sword,” a mid-tempo, upbeat piece that featured several outstanding solos from the brass and woodwind sections.

The first special guest of the evening, flautist Regina Helcher Yost, was introduced shortly after as the featured player for the next batch of songs, starting with the three-movement “Sonata Latino.” This arrangement started off with a heavy dose of bongos and pianos before the full band kicked in with much majesty.

There was an evident chemistry between guitarist-vocalist Duda Lucena and vocalist Leah Suarez, as the two performed a steamy duet titled “Samba em Prulido.” Lucena was given a well-deserved cheer as he exited the stage, leaving Suarez to perform a spicy version of “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

After an intermission that lasted just “15 jazz minutes,” the second set saw Singleton introduce featured Cuban pianist Fernando Rivas to the stage. Rivas not only is a Lowcountry local, but also happens to be a Grammy and Emmy award winner. “Afro Blue” featured some interesting percussion solos from another special guest, Ecuadorian-American Gino Castillo. Castillo’s inventive and exhilarating use of several different pieces of percussion really drew the approval of the audience.

The middle portion of the second set saw the performance stripped down to a core group, featuring Singleton’s trumpet and John Cobb’s baritone sax at the forefront. Although this group did not utilize the full band’s sound, the songs did not lose their power and grasp of the audience.

“Recuerdo” featured guitarist-vocalist Cristobal Cisneros, who alternated between acoustic and electric guitar, which helped to give the piece a balance between flamenco and rock-and-roll as the full orchestra once again joined the fray.

The set was closed out by a jazz icon Chick Corea’s “Spain,” an aptly-titled arrangement given the night’s theme. After receiving a standing ovation from a wildly-appreciative crowd, the CJO performed an encore to preview their October 23rd show titled “Pops,” leaving the audience wanting more.

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One Response to “Jazzin’ Up the Music Hall”

  1. mmills said

    Love jazz. Keep writing!

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