The mood was celebratory at Dizzy’s Club (Jazz at Lincoln Center) as Grammy winner, trumpeter, educator Charlie Sepulveda and his group The Turnaround launched a historic three-night run at the iconic venue.
Sepulveda resides and makes his living in Puerto Rico, but he is by no means a stranger. He honed his craft in the city during the 1970s and 80s as a sideman with his cousin Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, and Dizzy Gillespie among others. Today, he is the Musical Director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center and Rockefeller Foundation and a Professor at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and leads The Turnaround.
At Dizzy’s, the ensemble and renowned guests (trumpeter) Randy Brecker, (trombonist) Steve Turre, (saxophonist) Miguel Zenon, and (flutist) Nestor Torres took turns sitting in and putting their spin on selections from the albums, “Song for Nat,” “Mr. E.P. – A Tribute to Eddie Palmieri (both on HighNote Records). Also, they tipped their hats to the great Perez Prado, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Mongo Santamaria.
Highlights included a kitschy interpretation of Prado’s chart-topping hit, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” and a duet between Charlie and his wife, Natalia Mercado, who interpreted the Latin American classic, “Alfonso y el Mar.”
The Turnaround is a conglomeration of established and emerging virtuosos, who feast on a broad array of influences including Latin jazz, Hard Bop, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. “Today, what is called ‘Latin Jazz’ is different in so many ways. Earlier it was oriented towards Afro-Cuban styles,” says Charlie, “I play the traditional form of Latin jazz mixed with hard bop and always with Puerto Rican styles like Bomba, Plena, and Danza.”
The performance was historic for several reasons. It did much to dispel the notion that Puerto Rico lacks a robust jazz scene. Also, the sold-out performances demonstrated a demand for Puerto Rican artists and music that is not being met (club owners, take heed!).
For those who could not attend, fear not. HighNote Records wisely recorded the event for posterity.
THE TURNAROUND Trumpeter, Leader Charlie Sepulveda, Tenor Saxophonist Norberto Tiko Ortiz, Conguero Nick Cosaboom, bassist Gabriel Rodriguez, pianist Eduardo Zayas, drummer Francisco Alcalá, vocalist Natalia Mercado.
INVITED GUESTS Trombonist Steve Turre, Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, Flutist Nestor Torres.
Featured Photo: Charlie Sepulveda. Small Photo, Members of The Turnaround with Miguel Zenon – Pianist, Eduardo Zayas, Percussionist Nick Cosaboom, Drummer Francisco Alcalá, Bassist Gabriel Rodriguez, Saxophonist Norberto Tiko Ortiz.
Charlie Sepulveda and the Turnaround – Songs for Nat (High-Note, 2017)
Charlie Sepulveda – Algo Nuestro (Polygram, 1993)
Jon Secada featuring the Charlie Sepulveda Big Band – To Beny More With Love (BMG, 2017)
PHOTOS: Top: Charlie Sepulveda, Norberto Ortiz. Middle: Steve Turre, Charlie Sepulveda, Norberto Ortiz. Bottom: Nestor Torres. All photos by Andrew James.