Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fort Apache

Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band were great this evening at the SFJAZZ concert. The Palace of Fine Arts was full when I walked in late for the opening set with Omar Sosa. The Cuban pianist's ensemble was a reunion, all the amazing musicians partners of his from his Bay Area gigging days: Josh Jones on drums, Geoff Brennan on bass, Eric Crystal on saxophones. Sosa played standing up and seated, often strattling his piano bench feet body swiveling between an electric keyboard and an acoustic one.

Certainly favoring the acoustic instrument, he mixed in electronics --Malcolm X's voice one of two I recognized. We sang lines Sosa fed us...clapped or popped our fingers where noted. It was pretty spectacular-Omar Sosa one of our own. It was funny to hear him remark that he'd never played the Palace of Fine Arts when he was a resident artist. So true for so many.
Gonzalez' band came on strong and solid. I'd never seen the ensemble so I was really excited to see them for the first time. I've seen some great trumpeters but this musician has a style I'd never seen, especially with the mute. Nor had I ever seen a horn player shift between instruments so effortlessly.

Wearing dark glasses and a cap turned around backwards or a bandana, he reminded me slightly of Miles Davis, yet he was cool and connected. We knew that he knew we were there and even though he didn't speak except to introduce the band near the end, his playing was more than eloquent.

One minute he was soloing on trumpet, the next he was seated surrounded by five conga drums. The percussion was pronounced, its presence equal to all other musical voices. Gonzalez and drummer Steve Berrios were cool as they surfed new terrain together. Their latest album Rumba Buhaina is a tribute to Art Blakey. I'll have to get a copy.

Personnel featured were Gonzalez, thinner than I recalled --his brother Andy didn't make the date--diabetes complications perhaps? Instead on bass was Junior Terry, alto saxophonist Yosvany's brother, both members of a musically famous Cuban family. Terry played with Fort Apache like he'd been there from the beginning: percussive, passionate and musically inventive especially on a solo near the end of the set. Larry Willis was on piano and Joe Ford was on soprano and alto sax.


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