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Arturo O’ Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Pay Tribute to the Great Sidemen of Jazz


January 29 – 30, 2016
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space
2537 Broadway, New York City
Tickets: $40/$30/$20 (Advance), $45/$35/$25 (Day-Of-Show)

With Special Guest Musicians:
Jose Madera, Ray Santos, John “Dandy” Rodriguez Jr., Sonny Bravo,
Bobby Porcelli, Joe Gonzalez, Reynaldo Jorge, and Papo Vázquez

Harlem, NY — Thursday January 14, 2016 — The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance kicks off the New Year by bringing Latin jazz fans back to the era of the Palladium Ballroom with its two-night presentation of The Tribute to the Great Sidemen of Latin Jazz on January 29 – 30, 2016 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space in New York City. Back from his recent European tour and latest trip to Havana, Cuba performing at the US Embassy to celebrate the 1st Anniversary of President Obama’s historic announcement, Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) will ignite the stage with a “who’s who” of the genre’s famous sidemen: Jose Madera, Ray Santos, John “Dandy” Rodriguez, Sonny Bravo, Bobby Porcelli, Joe Gonzalez, Reynaldo Jorge, and Papo Vazquez. Interviews and hi-res photos are available upon request.

In a beloved salute to those who for the last half-century have often worked anonymously behind stars such as Celia Cruz, Frank “Machito” Grillo and Dizzy Gillespie, The Tribute to the Great Sidemen of Latin Jazz brings many of these stalwart artists center-stage for an unforgettable two-night concert. At Symphony Space, O’Farrill will unveil two world premiere compositions dedicated to the rich and continuing legacy of these fine musicians, including “Let’s Used to Be Here: Para Ruben Y Vince” and “Si? No?”. The evening will also celebrate several of Ray Santos’ signature compositions.

“My heroes growing up were the sideman,” says Arturo O’Farrill. “My father, Chico O’Farrill, taught me that without their incredible musicianship this unbelievable music would not be. Bobby, Reynaldo, Johnny, Sonny, Papo, Jose, Ray, and the Legendary Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra are the reason I do what I do… composing, arranging and creating opportunities for these giants to thrill us all!”

The sounds of the Tito Puente Orchestra will be reborn as conguero and former musical director Jose Madera, legendary composer/arranger Ray Santos, bongocero Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez, pianist Sonny Bravo, trombonist Reynaldo Jorge, and ALJO’s own Bobby Porcelli reunite as featured guest artists at The Tribute to the Great Sidemen of Latin Jazz. Rounding out the roster of honorees are bongocero Joe Gonzalez and trombonist Papo Vazquez, longtime band members of both Arturo’s and Chico O’Farrill’s orchestra.

Featured Special Guests
Jose Madera (congas)

Born in New York City, son of the famed musical arranger Jose “Pin” Madera for the Machito Orchestra, Jose Madera spent 31 years with the Tito Puente Orchestra. While there, he served as a percussionist and later went on to become a musical arranger and the musical director of the orchestra. Jose has written many arrangements for countless commercial Latin artists and has recorded or worked with many of them as well. Some of them include: Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Chico O’farill, The Lincoln Center Afro-Cuban jazz orchestra, Celia Cruz, Tito Rodriguez, Fania All-Stars, Willie Colon, Joe
Farrell, Machito, Graciela, Mario Bauza, Willie Rosario, Earl Klughand Eddie Palmieri, just to name a few. Jose has also worked and recorded with many pop, R&B and jazz artists. Some of them include Diana Ross, James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Paquito D’Rivera, George Benson and Lionel Hampton among others. Jose has performed on over 250 recordings. He has worked on several television show soundtracks including “The Simpsons” and several motion picture soundtracks including”The Mambo Kings Play Songs
of Love,” where he was the musical arranger and conductor for the Tito Puente segment of the film. Jose also taught the art of playing Latin percussion instruments at Boys Harbor in New York City for 28 years. Madera has done and continues to do musical clinics around the country at various schools. He was the musical director of the Latin Giants of Jazz from 2001 to 2009. Jose continues his musical direction with
the Mambo Legends Orchestra, a band comprised of former members of the Tito Puente Orchestra, which is dedicated to performing new creative Latin and Latin jazz concepts, as well as some of the music of Machito, Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente.
Jose has personally re-created and re-arranged much of the music that the bands performed during the heyday of the Mambo at the Palladium Ballroom in New York City, which is considered by many critics to be the “Greatest and Most innovative Era” in the history of Latin music.

Ray Santos (composer, arranger)

Ray Santos is a Grammy Award-winning Latin musician. He was born December 28, 1928 in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. He attended the Juilliard School of Music where he studied saxophone. Santos has played and arranged for such artists as Noro Morales, Machito, Tito Rodriguez, and Tito Puente among many others. Santos served as music consultant and arranger for the soundtrack of the motion picture The Mambo Kings. He arranged and directed the orchestra for Linda Ronstadt’s Frenesí album. Ray Santos taught at the City College of New York for over 20 years, directing the Latin Band. He retired in December of 2013 at the age of 84.

John “Dandy” Rodriguez Jr. (bongos)

John grew up in New York City at a time when it was the heart and soul of Latin Jazz in this country. In 1962 at 17 years old John earned a place playing Banjo’s in the Tito Puente Orchestra. This was the beginning of John’s career and of a life time association with the King of Latin Music, Tito Puente. John spent over 30 years with the Tito Puente Orchestra, also working with Tito Rodriguez from 1965 to 1968 and with Ray Barretto from 1970 until the end of 1972. John went on to form his successful ‘Tipica 73’
band in 1972, which he was with until 1979. Following this he went back to work with Tito Puente, playing alongside him until the time of his death in May 2000. Shortly after Tito’s death the Puente estate decided to stop any further performances under the Puente name. With dedication to their music and fans John got together with Jose Madera and Mitch Frohman and they formed the Latin Giants of Jazz. Under John’s
leadership the band has released three albums, which have been recognized internationally, staying on top-ten charts worldwide as well as receiving awards
Over the course of his career, John has been recognized as one of the greatest players and innovators of Latin music. Working with Martin Cohen (the founder of Latin Percussion), John has opened many doors for Latin performers, spurring a recognizable change in Latin performers’ abilities to entertain in Europe and around the world. John continues to work tirelessly to promote Latin music and further its progression

Sonny Bravo (piano)

Sonny Bravo (born October 7, 1936), born Elio Osacar, is an Afro-Cuban jazz and Latin jazz pianist. He was once a very good baseball player with many prospects born in New York, New York, though due to an injury in 1956 he sought out a career in music. It was then he started performing with Many Campo, El Casino de Miami, José Fajardo and many others. He also recorded with Tito Puente and Bobby Paunetto.

Bobby Porcelli (alto sax)

New York native Bobby Porcelli, born in 1937, is one of Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz’s most accomplished flautists and alto saxophonists. An exciting solosit influenced heavily by Charlie Park and Sonny Still, Porcelli’s alto has soared gracefully above the legendary percussive ensembles of Machito (1965-66), Mongo Santamaria (1987-1990), and Tito Puente (1966-2000). Since the early 1980’s, Porcelli has toured Europe as a soloist, playing with local rhythm sections across the continent and performing at many
festivals. As original member of T.S. Monk’s sextet as well as the Monk on Monk Tentet, Porcelli has demonstrated his ability to creatively interpret the idiosyncratic pianist’s quirky compositions.

Reynaldo Jorge (trombone)

Reynaldo’s trajectory as a Trombonist follows that of the evolution of Salsa Music. Born in Puerto Rico, Reynaldo moved to NYC in 1971. That same year, he joined the Fania All-Stars, and with them was a part of the movie “Our Latin Thing”. He has helped bring salsa to the far reaches of the world such as Russia, Egypt, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Taiwan, China, Morocco, and South Africa among many others. Reynaldo has taken part in more than fifty musical recordings including Grammy
Award winning; Ruben Blades “Antecedentes”, Tito Puente “Homenaje A Benny”, Tito Puente “Mambo Birdland”, Tito Puente & Eddie Palmieri “Masterpiece”, Arturo O’Farril ALJO “Song For Chico”, Ruben Blades Seis Del Solar “Todos Vuelven Live Recording”. He currently enjoys teaching part-time at Robert Treat Academy, a blue ribbon charter school in Newark, NJ and is an active member of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Community Arts Advisory Council. He performs regularly with the Spanish Harlem

Papo Vazquez

Papo was born, Angel R. Vázquez in 1958 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent his early years in Puerto Rico and grew up in the heart of North Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community. By the age of fifteen, Vázquez was performing with local bands in Philadelphia. At the age of seventeen he moved to New York and was hired to play for the legendary Cuban trumpet player, Chocolate Armenteros. Soon after, he began
playing and recording with top artists in the salsa scene, such as The Fania All-Stars, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, and Hector Lavoe among others.
During the late 1970s Vázquez was a key player in the New York’s burgeoning Latin Jazz scene. He studied with the legendary trombonist, Slide Hampton and eventually recorded and performed with Hampton’s World of Trombones. In addition, he went on to perform with jazz luminaries Tito Puente,  Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Foster, Mel Lewis, Hilton Ruiz and toured with the Ray Charles Orchestra. By the age of twenty-two Vázquez had traveled the globe. Vázquez is a founding member of Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band, Manny Oquendo’s, Conjunto Libre and Puerto Rico’s popular fusion band, Batacumbele.
From 1981 to 1985 he performed and recorded several albums with the group. Upon his return to New York, he joined Tito Puente’s Latin Jazz Ensemble and traveled with the band as the principal trombonist and toured with Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation’s Orchestra. Vázquez has always been deeply moved by jazz. He specifically cites the music of John Coltrane and J.J. Johnson as having the most influence on him. His appreciation and knowledge of the indigenous music of the Caribbean provides him with a unique ability to fuse Afro-Caribbean rhythms, specifically those from Puerto Rico, with freer melodic and harmonic elements of progressive jazz. During his time in Puerto Rico
with Batacumbele in the 1980s, he began to experiment with, “Bomba Jazz,” a mixture of jazz and traditional Puerto Rican Bomba. In 1993, he recorded his first album as a leader titled, Breakout. He continued collaborating with a variety of Latin Jazz artists, contributing the tune, “Overtime” to Hilton Ruiz’s Manhattan Mambo and “Contra Mar y Mareo” for the album, Descarga Boricua Volume 1. Interest in Vázquez as a composer grew. It was the first artist to receive a composer’s commission for the
tune, “Iron Jungle,” for the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, then a resident Jazz Orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The same year, through a grant from The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, Vázquez was asked to expand Pirates Troubadours, and was commissioned to compose music for a nineteen-piece, Afro-Puerto Rican Jazz Orchestra. The 2008 event was recorded live, resulting in Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates
Marooned/Aislado, which received a Grammy nomination for the Best Latin Jazz Album. Vázquez also shared his compositions with Panamanian vocalist, Rubén Blades (Tengan Fe/Antecedente), Hilton Ruiz (Overtime Mambo) and Dave Valentin (Tropic Heat).

About Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Grammy Award winning pianist, composer and educator Arturo O’Farrill — leader of the “first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz” (New York Times) — was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Son of the late, great composer Chico O’Farrill, Arturo was educated at Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He played piano in Carla Bley’s Big Band from 1979 through 1983 and earned a reputation as a soloist in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte. In 2002, he established the GRAMMY® winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in order to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin jazz to a wider general audience, and to greatly expand the contemporary Latin jazz big band repertoire through commissions to artists across a wide stylistic and geographic range.

An acclaimed composer with a ground-breaking and forward-looking perspective, Mr. O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, the Big Apple Circus, the Philadelphia Music Project, Symphony Space, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and The Apollo Theater. He has also composed music for films, including Hollywoodland and Salud. His debut album with the Orchestra, Una Noche Inolvidable, earned a GRAMMY® Award nomination in 2006 and the Orchestra’s second album, Song for Chico, (ZOHO) earned a GRAMMY® Award for “Best Latin Jazz Album” in 2009. In February 2011, Mr. O’Farrill and the ALJO released their third GRAMMY® nominated album, 40 Acres and a Burro (ZOHO). In 2011, O’Farrill released his first solo album, The Noguchi Sessions (ZOHO). On May 6, 2014, O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra released, The Offense of the Drum (Motéma Music), which won a GRAMMY® for “Best Latin Jazz Album.” O’Farrill’s latest recording, Cuba: The Conversation Continues, captures the miraculous historical moment of President Obama restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba. The album features some of today’s foremost Cuba-based and American composers working together in Abdala Studios (Havana, Cuba) recording an album of a lifetime.

Arturo O’Farrill is an artist in residence at Harlem School of the Arts and Casita Maria Center for Arts & Culture, and on the faculty of Brooklyn College and the Manhattan School of Music. He’s currently collaborating with director Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater on an Afro Cuban version of Bizet’s opera, Carmen. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Chapter of NARAS, and is a Steinway Artist.

About the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Led by pianist, composer, and director Arturo O’Farrill, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) comprises 18 eminent soloists. Performing classic works in the Afro Latin Jazz tradition, the Orchestra helps to preserve this vital musical genre, and commissioning new works provides the next generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists with an opportunity to further explore and define Afro Latin Jazz. Established in 2002, the ALJO has toured internationally, bringing the rhythms and power of Latin jazz to places as far away as China. For the past eight years, ALJO has been delighted to perform regularly at Symphony Space. The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra are artists-in-residence at the Harlem School of the Arts. Visit them on YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/AfroLatinJazzNY

Afro Latin Jazz Alliance

The non-profit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) was established by Arturo O’Farrill in 2007 to promote Afro Latin Jazz through a comprehensive array of performance and educational programs. ALJA self-produces the Orchestra’s annual performance season at Symphony Space (2007 – 2015), and maintains a weekly engagement for the Orchestra at the famed jazz club Birdland. The Alliance also maintains a world-class collection of Latin jazz musical scores and recordings. ALJA’s education initiatives include the Afro Latin Jazz Academy of Music in-school residency program serving public schools citywide with instrumental and ensemble instruction, and the pre-professional youth orchestra, the Fat Afro Latin Jazz Cats, which prepares the next generation of musicians. The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance is a partner project of the Fund for the City of New York and maintains an administrative office at the Minisink Townhouse of the New York Mission Society. For more information on the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, please visit afrolatinjazz.org.

The work of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance is made possible with generous support from:
Foundations: Arnhold Foundation, Leonard Bernstein Family Foundation, BMI Foundation, The Brenner Family Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, D’Addario Foundation, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Fund for the City of New York, Hispanic Federation, National Recreation Foundation, New Music USA, NYC & Company Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund/Culpepper Arts Grant, Fan Fox, and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation; Corporations: Bronx Lebanon Hospital, Colgate Palmolive, Con Edison, Tahl Propp, Public: New York City Department of Cultural Affairs-Cultural Development Fund, New York State Council on the Arts – Music & Arts Education Program, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer Cultural Grant, City Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, Eugene Mathieu, and Antonio Reynoso, and other generous individual donors.

The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s FY15 season is supported by NYC & Company Foundation. WBGO is a media partner.


A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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