Jazz & blues heats up Utah's mountains
You should’ve been there!
Musically, if you weren’t there Friday and
The music was hot even if the temperatures
were not. It was high in the mountains at
Snowbird. It was the 8th annual Utah Jazz
Festival featuring Robert Cray’s cool jazz and hot Latin-jazz
licks from none
other than maestro Tito Puente. Several
other festival musicians razzle-dazzled audiences too.
For two magical days, the Snowbird festival
beating heart of Utah. And oh-boy! was the heart rate way
up. I have to
tell you, Snowbird was swinging to-and-fro.
Puente closed out the festival Saturday night
in a muy
grande style, leaving the audience dancing in the aisles and wishing
king would play way way into Sunday morning.
Pummeling his hot pink and green drums like
muy loco crazy,
the flamboyant band leader certainly belied his 72 years as he danced
extremely danceable beat. Did you know
he intended to be a dancer before he tore an ankle tendon in an
accident? That was the dance world’s loss,
world’s good luck. The accident sent
Puente to study musical composition from Charlie Spivak whom he had met
on the USS
Santee during World War II. Juilliard
followed and so did mucho albums and two Grammies.
The Puente fire ignited several numbers into
the performance. A Magnificent timbales
player, competent saxophonist, pianist and conga bongo player, Puente
is also a great, but underrated vibraphone player with his moving Autumn Leaves.
Then he shared the spotlight with an engaging Dominican Republic singer, La Duke, who charmed the audience
their seats again.
While Puente and La Duke shared the spotlight
electricity for that spotlight was Puente’s finely-tuned team of
musicians who seemed to enjoy the audience as much at it enjoyed them.
What a night—Puente closed out the festival
back Carlos Santana’s Oye Como Va. Puente
wrote and recorded that composition. But Santana rocketed the
number to the top
of the charts in a way making it his own. Santana
also recorded Para los Ruberos, another of Puente’s 400-plus
Puente’s finale with Oye
Como Va left him with the swaying members of the audience in his
hand and they left with
him in their quickly beating hearts.
Just before Puente’s band took the stage, Igor
Butman + 5
had the audience thanking music heaven for glasnost.
The too-hot saxophonist was declared the
Soviet saxophonist in 1985 and 1986. Then
he married and American and moved to the United States.
But last May, Butman was temporarily back in Moscow blowing licks at the Kremlin for Boris
mediocre saxophonist U.S. President Bill Clinton. Since arriving
shores, Butman has collaborated with the
likes of Grover Washington, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton and David Brubeck.
Saturday night, he was collaborating with the
Utah audience in fine style with his brother and four other Russians,
members of his
excellent new group.
How good were they? So
good the audience just had to shake their
heads and ask, Who are these Russkies who have mastered
American jazz idiom so well?
performance of Argentinean Gato Brabbiery’s
slow and emotional Nostalgia was technically
flawless. It grabbed tearfully at your
It contrasted perfectly with their
conclusion number, Sonny Stitt’s Eternal
Triangle. It was performed so well
that if the festival had been a contest, they would have been declared
The California Guitar Trio was hands-downs
showing just how far the sound of a guitar can be tweaked.
Sometimes during their curious (jazz? classical? country?
they sounded like
guitar players. But at other times they
sounded like harpsichordist or synthesizer players. Wow!
This trio consists of Japan’s Hideyo Moriya; Bert Lams of Santa Fe, N.M., via the Royal Conservatory of
Brussels, and Paul Richards of Bountiful, Utah, via England where he first teamed up with Lams and
Moriyia. Small world isn't it, eh?
Opening Saturday, was one of Salt Lake City’s best-kept secrets, the Frederick James
trio, with Frederick James McCray romancing the piano and holding his
vocal solos. So-fine percussionist Wayne Coonson of Salt Lake City and Utah County’s own Lars Yorgason, shining like a new
A version of this review appeared
in The Daily Herald, Provo, Utah