I’m speaking with multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, bandleader William Cepeda about the upcoming release with the Puerto Rico Big Band Jazz Orchestra, titled “The Sound of Puerto Rican Jazz.”
Tomás Peña: Congratulations on the upcoming release of The Sound of Puerto Rican Jazz. I understand the performance was a smashing success!
William Cepeda: It was awesome!
TP: Where and when did the event take place?
WC: The event took place on June 18, 2022 at the historic El Teatro Tapia in Old San Juan.
TP: Thankfully, the performance was recorded for posterity. I’m curious to know, what prompted you to form and lead a big band? Also, why now?
WC: I have always dreamed of directing a big band with a big sound.
TP: What can listeners expect?
WC: The Sound of Puerto Rican Jazz is a colorful collage of rhythms, colors and moods. Also, its an aural journey through traditional and experimental Puerto Rican music, North American jazz, European classical music, African rhythms and avant-garde.
TP: Let’s explore the tracks.
- Atrevida – An exploration of Bomba rhythms with various orchestrations and harmonies.
- Afro Valz is my interpretation of Vals with a classical and African groove.
- Zaza – Is modern jazz fused with the gentler sound of the Bomba cuembe rhythm.
- Puerto Rican Jazz Suite – This experimental suite moves through the different Puerto Rican genres (Bomba, Plena, La Danza, Musica Jibara).
- Subito – Dedicated to the Tainos. Here, I recreate the sound of nature in the rainforest, “El Yunque.” Also, I remind listeners of the struggles of the Tainos and the abuse they endured at the hands of the Spanish, followed by a free jazz Phrygian mode, which contains Spanish, Moor, and Gypsy (Gitano) influences.
- The Next Step – Is a fast Bomba Hollande rhythm combined with bass and saxophone. The sound is modern jazz.
- La Danza Sentimental – A romantic Danza mixed with modern jazz. The trombone solo is modern, free, and finds its way back to the melody.
- El Jibaro Feliz – Inspired by the Aguinaldo Jibaro form, one of the more popular Seises and Aguinaldos.
- Con el Corazon – Uniquely blends traditional and avant-garde music. It reminds me of Ornette Coleman’s sound.
- Oya Oye – Is a Bomba Yuba Rhythm, the most Afro of all the Bomba rhythms mixed with jazz and African rhythms.
TP: What should listeners take away from the recording?
WC: I want listeners to have an exceptional experience. Also, to experience Puerto Rican music in a non-traditional way.
TP: Now that you’ve had a chance to reflect on the experience, what say you?
WC: It’s a dream come true!
TP: I should mention, the release date has yet to be announced. Also, initially, the music will only be available as a digital download. Lastly, The Sound of Puerto Rican Jazz is one of two recordings you William plans to release this year. Thank you William, look forward to hearing The Sound of Puerto Rican Jazz in its entirety!
- Holanda Con Gracima
- Afro Vals
- PR Jazz Suite
- The Next Step
- La Danza Sentimental
- El Jibaro Feliz
- Con El Corazon
- Oya Oye
- Antonio Luis Orta – Alto Sax
- Orlando I. Rivera Vazquez – Alto Sax
- Luis A. Rodriguez – Tenor Sax
- Adriano Pancaldi – Tenor Sax
- Victor M. Roman Torres – Bari Sax
- Roberto Texeira – Trumpet
- Glenn E. Diaz Gonzalez – Trumpet
- Abdel J. Rivera Vazquez – Trumpet
- Ricardo Marrerto Matos – Trumpet
- Hommy Ramos – Trombone
- Jesus R. Torres – Trombone
- Danny Fuentes – Trombone
- Nayib Y. Gonzalez – Trombone
- Francisco Alcalá – Drums
- Jesus D. Colon Flores – Bass
- Eduardo Zayas Ventura – Piano
- Braulio Salva Rivera – Cuatro Guitar
- Manuel F. Rivera – Percussion
- John Rivera – Percussion
- Kalineli Sanjuro Lopez – Voice
- William Cepeda – Director/Executive Producer
- Maribella Burgos – Presenter / Dancer
- Frances Ryan – Ticket office
- Elijah Santos Celpa – Technical Production
- Sunday Dominguez – Sound
- Joseph Rivera – Sound Wizard
- Juan Vazquez – Sound Wizard
- Kiko Hurtado – Audio Recording
- Joshua Sandoval – Audio Recording Wizard
- David Marrero – Video recording
- Adalberto Lugo – Video Recording Assistant
- Casabe Records