A tribute to Victor Venegas, a native of Durango, Mexico, who became one of the great bassists in Latin music as a South Side Chicagoan, will highlight the 8th annual Chicago Latin Jazz Festival. Now in its second year as a two-day music and cultural arts and crafts attraction, the event will offer a full range of musical performances, instrument- and mask-making workshops and other activities.
Venegas, who died in 2006, helped introduce to America the charanga, the Cuban dance music he performed in the 1940’s as a member of Orquesta Nuevo Ritmo de Cuba, led by Armando Sanchez. Their work inspired Charlie Palmieri and Johnny Pacheco – two of the many Latin jazz masters greats Venegas played with after moving to New York. He also played with such West Coast legends as Errol Garner, Cal Tjader, and Mongo Santamaria (he can be heard on “Watermelon Man”), and left his mark on salsa as well.
Venegas’ music will be performed Friday by a specially assembled group of leading players from Chicago called the Chicago Latin Jazz Collaborative. Led by Jose Porcayo, a much-admired bassist himself who leads the pop-influenced unit, La Nueva Corporación, the band will include trumpeter Victor Garcia, drummer Bobby Delgado, conga player Joe Rendon, pianist Joaquin Garcia and saxophonist Max Wassinger.
“We’ve been wanting to honor Victor since he passed, especially because a lot of younger musicians are unaware of him and what he contributed to some of the music they’re playing,” said Carlos Flores, artistic director of the festival. “It will be great to hear the group perform pieces of his they themselves have chosen.”
Friday’s concert also will feature the brilliant violinist James Sanders’ Proyecto Libre, an improvisational band including bassist Joshua Abrams, Latin percussionist Jean-Christophe Leroy, drummer and wood flutist Avreeayl Ra – and, as special guest, tenor saxophone great Edward Wilkerson. Closing the show will be hard-hitting conguero Johnny Blas’ Afro Libre Orchestra, known for its killer trombones.
Saturday’s musical bill will feature young percussionist and composer Juan Pastor’sChinchano, which innovatively applies Central and South American rhythms to jazz. The band includes rising trumpet star Marquis Hill, alto saxophonist Rich Moore, pianistStuart Mindeman and bassist Patrick Mulcahy. Also performing are Ruben Alvarez’s Sun Sounds, led by the veteran percussionist (a longstanding member of Chévere De Chicago) and esteemed trombonist William Cepeda, whose Afro-Caribbean jazz brings a special emphasis to the music of his native Puerto Rico. His band will include a pair of celebrated Chicagoans, trumpeter Victor Garcia and tenor saxophonist Roy McGrath. Read on.