JDP: Congratulations on the release of Mambo Boulevard. Suffice it to say; listeners are in for a treat!
VR: Thank you for supporting our music.
TP: The pleasure is mine! Before we dive into the album, tell me about the Bronx Conexion Latin Jazz Big Band. As I understand it, the ensemble is a rehearsal band playing stock (standard) charts.
VR: When I was in college, I wanted to be a big band drummer. I saw the connection between the American big bands and the orchestras of Tito Puente and Machito. Of course, when I formed the big band in 2012, I didn’t have the repertoire I have now. I had arrangements by Buddy Rich, Count Basie, and Thad Jones and songs I composed for Lehman College. I started with that, but the band members began bringing in their arrangements quickly, and it took off! I saw the potential within a year, and it turned into an “official” band.
JDP: How critical was the residency at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe?
VR was significant in rehearsing, recording, and working out the material in front of a live audience. The tune, Chale, which appears on Mambo Boulevard, went through six incarnations before I settled on the final version.
JDP: For the record, the residency was interrupted by the pandemic, but it is ongoing. No doubt, you are looking forward to returning to the stage.
VR: I can’t wait! We share the residency with percussionist Wilson “Chembo” Corniel, who performs on alternate Wednesdays.
JDP: In 2016, the Bronx Conexion Latin Jazz Big Band released the album, “True Flight,” which was well-received. Why the long gap between recordings?
VR: Time flies! The music was completed in February or March 2020. The original plan was to release Mambo Boulevard in May, and the pandemic struck in March. Given the gravity of the pandemic, I decided to put everything on hold. Also, I lost a lot of fellow musicians. It wasn’t appropriate. Also, I wanted to keep the CD private during the pandemic. So, I decided to wait until Spring. Concerning the gap between recordings, I was planning, trying out the tunes, and staggering the cost of the recording. Lest we forget, it’s an independent recording. The entire process took about four years. Ultimately, I plan, wait, and do it right.
JDP: It shows! The production, the music, and the presentation are top-notch.
VR: Yes, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on those tunes. Also, Latin jazz tunes are not abstract. Mambo Boulevarincludes mambo, Cuban son, boogaloo, songo, timba, cha-cha, bolero, and a lively descarga (jam session). The album contains something for everyone. I want the public to appreciate the ban
JDP: Obviously, a live CD Release is out of the question. When they do, will you celebrate the release of Mambo Boulevard at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe?
VR: Of course! Also, I plan to film a video in June or July for promotional purposes.
TP: Mambo Boulevard is a fine recording. It keeps the big band tradition alive; the repertoire is diverse, exciting, and danceable. Also, as the liner notes state, it’s the next best thing to experiencing the Bronx Conexion Latin Jazz Big Band in a live setting. Mambo Boulevard is available on all digital platforms.
VR: Thank you, Tomas.
ABOUT VÍCTOR RENDÓN
Victor Rendón is a highly respected educator and author. He studied intensively for many years with Jimmy Ramirez, Dr. Rosemary Small, Louie Bauzo, John Almendra, “Little” Ray Romero, Frankie Malabe, Mike Collazo Sr., Pablo Rosario, Changuito, Roberto Borrell, John Amira, Morris “Arnie” Lang, as well as jazz drummers Paul Guerrero, Henry Okstel, & Charli Persip among others. He has worked as a side man with Mongo Santamaria, Chico O’Farrill, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, Ray Santos Orchestra, Grupo Caribe, Latin Jazz Coalition, The “New” Xavier Cugat Orchestra, Grupo Latin Vibe, Los Mas Valientes, Rudy Calzado, and many others.
As an author and transcriber, his work has appeared in Modern Drummer, Percussive Notes, LP Newsletter, Music in Motion Films, DCI Music Video, Drum! Magazine, and Warner Bros. Publications. He is the author of The Art of Playing Timbales, distributed by Alfred Publishing. For several years Victor also published the semi-annual magazine Latin Percussionist.
Rendón holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of North Texas and a Masters degree in education from Hunter College in the New York City Public Schools. A successful clinician, he conducts workshops in Latin percussion styles. Also, Rendón is an LP, Sabian, Vic Firth, and Evans performing artist and educator.