MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Pay Tribute to the Music of Puerto Rico


On March 27, 2015, the multi-Grammy-nominated Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Bobby Sanabria, pays tribute to LA ISLA DEL ENCANTO (PUERTO RICO) with works by Rafael Hernandez, Bobby Capó, Juan Tizol, Ricardo Pons, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Santos’ monumental Puerto Rican Suite, and more. Special guests will include members of Danza Fiesta and noted poet/performer Mariposa Fernández. This special MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra concert is free and open to the public; tickets are not required. The Manhattan School of Music is located at the northwest corner of 122nd Street and Broadway in New York.

The Puerto Rican community in New York City has been transformative. From dance, theater, literature, education, politics, poverty, art, and, especially, music, the pulse of the city reflects the great contributions of a place that has become known simply as the island of enchantment. In the 20th century, Puerto Ricans were in the vanguard, opening doors for subsequent Latino immigrant communities to the United States. Puerto Rican music helped to redefine Afro-Cuban big band mambo with jazz in the 1950’s with the contributions of legendary bandleaders like Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Cesar Concepcion. In the 1960’s they redefined the Cuban conjunto sound with a brash in your face attitude that became known the world over as “salsa,” but they also created new hybrid forms, such as the fusion of R&B with cha-cha-cha, son montuno, and guajira, that brought African Americans and Latinos together in what became known as Latin Boogaloo. Artists like Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera, and Raul Julia became Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony winners.

In the world of jazz, 18 Puerto Rican musicians were part of the legendary 369th Harlem Hellfighters U.S. Army Regimental Band (directed by James Reese Europe), the first group to expose European audiences to early jazz and ragtime. One of its members was Puerto Rican trombonist Rafael Hernandez, who would eventually become one of Latin America’s most beloved composers. Trombonist Juan Tizol contributed seminal compositions to the Duke Ellington Orchestra, pieces like “Caravan,” “Peridido,” and “Moon Over Cuba,” while pianist Roger “Ram” Ramirez co-wrote the 1944 standard, “Lover Man.” Sammy Davis Jr. always proudly reminded audiences that he was half Puerto Rican, as did comedian Freddie Prinze. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor continues the legacy of Puerto Rico’s contribution to American society.

Now seven-time Grammy nominee and native Nuyorican Bobby Sanabria leads the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra in a FREE CONCERT honoring his ancestral homeland and its New York community. The repertoire will include a virtual kaleidoscope of Puerto Rican musical styles opening with the multiple movements of Mosaico Puertoriqueno. Contemporary treatments of Hernandez’s “Cachita” and Tizol’s “Caravan” (featuring arrangements by MSM alumnus Dr. Jeremy Fletcher) and Hernandez’s “El Cumbanchero” (featuring an arrangement by MSM alumnus, trumpeter Andrew Neesely) explore Puerto Rican forms such as bomba yuba, and plena. Contemporary works will include Ricardo Pons’ “El Lider,” which features a fusion of the Afro-Puerto Rican bomba grasima style with funk. The monumental three-movement, Suite For Puerto Rico, by legendary big band composer and arranger Ray Santos, will also figure into the program and feature native musical forms like the danza and seis chorreao, concluding with the majestic jazz mambo that Puerto Ricans first heard when they frequented New York ballrooms like the Palladium in Manhattan and The Hunts Point Palace in the Bronx. Featured will be dancers from the critically acclaimed New York based Puerto Rican folkloric dance company, Danza Fiesta.

The evening’s special guest – poet, artist, and author – Mariposa Fernández, will read from her epic poem, Ode to the Diasparican. It will serve as the introduction to NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri’s majestic Grammy-winning tribute to the island, “Puerto Rico,” arranged by MSM alumnus Takao Heisho, who will also be performing on congas with the orchestra.

[. . .] Bobby Sanabria, the multiple Grammy-nominated drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, conductor, bandleader, and multi-cultural warrior, has performed and recorded with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Paquito D’Rivera, Ray Barretto, Candido, Henry Threadgill, Larry Harlow, and Afro-Cuban Jazz godfather Mario Bauzá. His first solo recording, N.Y.C. Aché’, has become a cult classic. His first big band recording, Live & in Clave!!!, was nominated for a mainstream Grammy in 2001. In 2003 he was nominated for a Latin Grammy for 50 Years of Mambo – A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado. Mr. Sanabria’s 2005 Quarteto Aché’ disc was hailed by the critics as giving a new vision to the standard jazz quartet. [. . .]

For information, call (917) 493 4428, or visit

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