Lively Arts Launches ‘Jazz Cubano’ Series this Fall

by Lauren Somers

Poncho Sanchez

Poncho Sanchez

Montgomery County Community College brings the global sounds, culture and Afro-Cuban influence of Latin jazz to the Philadelphia region this fall as part of its Lively Arts 2013-2014 season, “Meeting at the Crossroads of Culture.” The Jazz Cubano series will feature:

  • Performance by Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Band, Oct. 26, 8 p.m., Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell;
  • Performance by Omar Sosa and his Afri-Lectric Experience, Nov. 16, 8 p.m., Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell; and
  • Performance by Ninety Miles (jazz musicians Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott), Dec. 14, 8 p.m., Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

Omar Sosa

Tickets cost $30 for general admission and $15 for children under 12. The workshop led by Poncho Sanchez is free and open to musicians. Visit or call 215-641-6518 for tickets and information.

Funded by a Philadelphia Music Project grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Jazz Cubano series represents the culmination of an artistic journey begun several years ago when the College started to examine the historical influence of African music on the Americas and the Caribbean. Through the series, College leaders hope to introduce Afro-Cuban music to new audiences and deepen their understanding of its historical, social and stylistic elements.

“The spirit of the music is a true fusion among North, South and Central America, with an emphasis on African rhythms,” says Helen Haynes, director of Cultural Affairs for the College.  “In more recent times some groups have developed Afro-Cuban jazz beyond its boppish roots― performing Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis tunes, adding funk to the mixture and featuring more adventurous solos.”

Ninety Miles

Ninety Miles

From the habanera of the mid-1800s to the timba of the 1990s, Cuban music has significantly contributed to the formation of such related musical styles as salsa, soukous and mbalax in other parts of the world―all while reflecting the African heritage of its performers.

“To me, Latin jazz is the world’s greatest music,” says Poncho Sanchez. “It has the melodic and harmonic sophistication of jazz and American standards, and the flavor and energy of Latin American music.

In a warm, intimate atmosphere that encourages active listening, audiences will enjoy sizzling performances from musical veterans who bring a fresh approach to traditional pieces.

Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Band

Grammy Award-winning conguero (conga player) Sanchez has been lauded for his infectious energy, rhythmic virtuosity and stage presence. For nearly four decades, the heralded self-taught percussionist and singer has explored melodies and rhythms from many Latin American and South American influences. He performed and recorded with Cal Tjader until the vibraphonist legend’s death in 1982, has collaborated with the likes of Terence Blanchard and Freddie Hubbard, and was honored with the Latin Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. His Oct. 26concert will pay tribute to the transformative “Cubano-Be, Cubano-Bop” album recorded by two influential architects of Latin jazz, conga drummer/composer Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Fundamentals of Latin Music for the Rhythm Section workshop

Poncho Sanchez will lead the workshop at The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, the jazz institution that was the outgrowth of the historic Black Musicians Local Union. Participation is open to the musician community, including members of the highly regarded Clef Club Youth Ensemble program.

Omar Sosa Afri-Lectric Experience

Composer-pianist-bandleader Omar Sosa is one of today’s most versatile jazz artists. Having earned a Smithsonian lifetime achievement award and multiple Grammy and BBC World Music nominations, he fuses the expressive traditions of Africa and the Americas with a cosmopolitan mix of jazz, world music and electronic elements. The Omar Sosa Afri-Lectric Experience was formed after Sosa composed and produced a tribute performance to Miles Davis’s classic “Kind Of Blue” recording as a commission from the 2009 Barcelona Jazz Festival. The Los Angeles Times salutes his potential, saying he has “all the traits necessary to become one of the important figures in jazz.”

Ninety Miles

The collaboration of Stefon Harris (vibraphone) of New Orleans, David Sanchez (saxophone) of Puerto Rico and Christian Scott (trumpet) of New York blends traditional bebop with Latin and Afro-Caribbean influences. The three musicians came together in Havana over the course of a week to record “Ninety Miles,” an album featuring Cuban pianists Rember Duhart and Harold Lopez Nussa to add authentic regional flavor.

Follow “Destination Arts” at Montgomery County Community College on Facebook at for information about performing and fine arts events.

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