Friday, March 06, 2009

Ray Mantilla Birthday Jazzmotel impressions


Celebrating Ray Mantilla’s 75th birthday is not something you do every day.
I’ll skip the presentation of this artist as Jazzitlalia has already elaborated upon him with interviews and articles. I’ll focus on the emotions and sensations that the evening afforded me.

Thanks to Zero Zero Jazz and Associazione Culturale Miles I had the privilege as an independent Jazzmotel journalist and connoisseur of Latin Jazz music to attend this celebration from the late afternoon, attending the sound-check, the concert and the after-concert.

On arrival at the Don Mazza Auditorium in Padova, after trying with some difficulty to find parking, I enter this student college that houses a recently built concert hall and I await the arrival of the artists.

When they arrive I instantly take note of their warm-hearted friendliness, which probably is a by-product of their 40 years of touring, playing and meeting people.

The stage is practically ready, only the lights and sound-check are missing. Three congas Latin Percussion, 2 Timbales and a Cajon make up Mantilla’s instrumentation

The sound balance is over very quickly and is achieved by establishing a “true” sound rather than looking for a “perfect” sound. I note with great surprise the “electric” sound of pianist Edy Martinez. I then have the chance to meet the band and to ask Mantilla a few questions his about his music in the 60’s and 70’s focusing on “We Insist” which I find quite topical and up to date. He tells me about how he was contacted by Roach and about the atmosphere of that period ….a then a break and something to eat in a bar around the corner.

On my return the hall is packed and the background music is of great quality. The concert begins. I close my eyes and I have the sensation of being in the Bronx or in the Latin Barrio in the middle of the 70’s.
Martinez, with his electric piano typifies the sound of the gig, sounds that largely recall those of “The Other Road” by Ray Barretto FANIA on which Martinez contributed composing, in my opinion, the best tunes of that album.

With fantastic conga solos by Mantilla, jazzy embellishments by saxophonist Willie Williams (the Jazz “soul” of the band) and a fantastic rhythm section comprising a very tight Cucho Martinez on bass and Bill Elder on drums, after nearly two hours the Padova concert celebrating Mantilla’s birthday comes to an end.

A chat and a few drinks in the room housing the refreshments after the concert. I exchange emails and phone numbers and my evening as a Jazzmotel correspondent comes to a close accompanied by a piece of New York Barrio in my “Alma Latina”

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