Live Jazz: The Arturo Sandoval Big Band at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

By Tony Gieske

Arturo Sandoval opened his second set at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. Tuesday night with an astonishing trumpet passage, his sound wider and deeper than the 90 miles of sea between his native Cuba and the littorals of Key West.

He approached the melody notes of “The Man I Love” over a frothy path of  unerringly sounded little guys, outputted at the speed of hadrons colliding under Geneva, before settling on the phrase’s rich, full longer ones.

He plays so fast, it is said, because his fingers rarely leave the keys, day or night, on the ground, over the ocean, or in the air. On his travels, the story goes, Sandoval carries a little wooden gizmo with three simulated keys, atop which his knuckles have reportedly gained in velocity and power over the years.

But there are scads and bunches of fast fingered trumpet men — and women — prestidigitating on the bandstands of the world these days, with such facilities as Julliard, Berklee and North Texas State feeding more of them into the music industry every year.

The rare power that makes Sandoval Sandoval is pathos.

The Wikipedia describes pathos as “the quality or property of anything  which touches the feelings  or excites emotions and passions, esp., that which awakens tender emotions, such as pity, sorrow, and the like; contagious warmth of feeling, action, or expression; pathetic quality.”

In a way, it was an international version of soul.   So no wonder Sandoval got to me. But how did he know I was waiting for him to build us a little home, just made for two?

The ensuing entrance of Sandoval’s big band, populated by the Fast Guys from the Studios, plus one gal,  proved this in a big way. On such ballads, the music felt like an audible soul kiss, 16 tongues strong.

Resting for a moment or two, Sandoval provided arranger Tom Kubis with a virtual baton, with which the visitor conducted a couple of interactive swifties based on vintage bebop heads, “Salt Peanuts” and “Donna Lee” among then.  One of the delights of the present big band boom is to hear a team of virtuoso players like these whip through such impossible tuttis as though they were one. The band members play them triple forte, but they’re so in tune and they blend so beautifully that the ear just relaxes and feasts.

But beware. With five thriving jazz clubs in and around the Valley — Vibrato, Vitello’s, Charlie O’s, the Baked Potato and Catalina’s just over the hill – we might be in for an ear obesity epidemic.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site


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