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IU Latin Jazz Ensemble brings cultural flavor

Latin Jazz Ensemble

The IU Latin Jazz Ensemble plays to a captive audience. Photo credit/Christine Aiken

By: Christine Aiken
Staff Writer

It may have been freezing outside the doors of Northside Hall Tuesday, March 3, but in the Campus Auditorium, it was muy caliente.

People were dancing in their seats to the rhythm of the IU Latin Jazz Ensemble, led by Grammy nominees Michael Spiro and Wayne Wallace. This performance was part of an artist exchange between IU South Bend and IU Bloomington. The Raclin School of the Arts at IU South Bend sent their Euclid Quartet to perform on the Bloomington campus as well.

The exchange is the result of a generous gift by the Georgina Joshi Foundation. Dean Marvin Curtis spoke of this performance opportunity.

“It allows us to share performers from one campus to the other, presenting new opportunities to both the performers and audience members,” he said.

The audience was not disappointed by the ensemble’s performance, which included a lovely rendition of “Como Fue,” featuring singer Yuri Rodriguez.

Her soulful voice, combined with Jonah Tarver’s alto sax, made this piece one of the highlights of the evening.

Professor David Seymour particularly enjoyed the IU Latin Jazz Ensemble’s rendition of that song, as it has special significance to him. He attended the performance with many students from his Intro to Latin Dance class, encouraging them to attend the performance in order to better experience the Latin music culture.

“I figured the band would be good,” he said, “but they exceeded my expectations.”

Several of the dance students made their way down to the front of the stage during the performance of “Charango Sunrise,” put together by the conductor, Wayne Wallace. He even made his way over to the corner where the students were dancing and acknowledged their enthusiasm.

Conductor Michael Spiro and his percussion section exuded energy in every up-tempo performance. There was even a brief percussion battle between Spiro and one of his students that may have gone unnoticed to some in the crowd, but was nonetheless entertaining as a supplement to the music itself.

Saxophonist Sam Motter also brought forth much enthusiasm in his solos, which were thoroughly enjoyed by those in the audience.

Not to be outdone, Brennan Johns also brought it on his trombone solos, especially in the final song, “El Martillo de Armando.” This song was a tribute to famed percussionist Armando Peraza, who passed away last year at the age of 89.

The song included vocals and spoken word poetry along with the instrumental music. The poetry specifically featured a baseball theme, as this was one of the late musician’s favorite pastimes.

One of the most impressive feats of the evening was the vocal backing, done by the musicians themselves, in multiple languages. This, coupled with the tropical attire worn by the band members, gave the performance an authenticity that might make one feel as if they were on a beach in the Caribbean.

The evening was certainly enjoyed by many, as everyone in attendance was moving, even if only in their seats.

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