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Band Latin Jazz


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"CALJE Chicago Debut"

"This 13 piece band, playing before a standing-room only crowd at this international music venue in the South Loop left everyone gasping and wanting more dazzling sounds after their near two hour flawless set. If the set is indicative of what's to follow the remaining four nights, Chicago, get ready for some heart-throbbing, hot Latin sounds!" - James Walker - Jazz in Chicago

"Sophomore Review"

"The CALJE's premiere last November was extremely entertaining, as well as a thorough success, and it was interesting to surmise as to what the group had in store for the audience this time. As hard as it was to imagine their topping their debut, the band came out firing away and immediately proved that they have been hard at work at scaling new heights in their musical presentation."
"With the abilities of the players, the vision and drive of co-founders Garcia and Noguera, and the evident desire of this band to climb even higher pinnacles in their playing and arrangements combine together and lead me to believe that there is nothing stopping this band from achieving their goal of becoming the world class Latin jazz band that Chicago both needs and deserves."

- Brad Walseth - Jazz in Chicago

"Millennium Park Review"

Story and Photos by James Walker

As a critic and jazz enthusiast, this writer will often target a proposed concert as a "can't miss" happening. That was the case with the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Concert when it was announced back in the spring. Occasionally though, such a build up results in disappointment. Fortunately,there was no such let down with this exceptional star studded concert. It lived up to all expectations plus some. On a scale of 1-4, this set was a 5 !!!!!

Following an afternoon of turbulent weather throughout the Chicago area, the "Gods" were kind and the cloud rolled back to make room for sunshine as the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble (CALJE) put on a spectacular performance before an estimated 8,000 delighted jazz fans.

Led by CALJE founders, trumpeter/composer Victor Garcia and pianist/composer Darwin Noguera, with special guests world class trombonist Steve Turre, Grammy award winner trumpeter Brian Lynch (2006- "Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project- Simpatico"), Paoli Meijas and Chicago harmonica whiz extraordinaire Howard Levy, this program had something for every Afro-Latin jazz fan. With the backdrop of the beautiful Millennium Park and Downtown Chicago, this project may have been the absolute best Chicago Concert this summer; comparable to the "Hope" Concert the previous week headed by trumpeter Orbert Davis in his tribute to South Africa's Nelson Mandela.

This great evening of mostly original Afro-Latin sounds got under way with a bang with a Brian Lynch composition, "Guajira Dubois," featuring Victor Garcia, Darwin Noguera, Steve Turre and Brian Lynch on solos. It didn't take long for the audience to realize that it was going to witness a very special program. This was followed by a burning Victor Garcia composition, "Captain Spock." Darwin Noguera engaged in a nice solo duet with Howard Levy on Noguera's "Tango Asteroid." From that point on, it was non-stop high energy action for the next 90 minutes. Throughout the evening, Turre was featured not only on the Trombone, but also producing beautiful and unique sounds with his "sea shells." If you have never seen shells used as a instrument, you need to check out master Turre, as he is the only musician this writer has ever seen master this "instrument." His quick interchange with four shells was a sight to see. Many in the crowd seemed to be amazed.

Also featured much of the night was Howard Levy. He thrilled the crowd with his impeccable harmonica playing. The versatile Levy, who's played with everyone Bela Fleck, Poi Dog Pondering, Chevere, and Symphonic Orchestras, was certainly a crowd favorite.

Special moments also were produced by the percussion section, led by the dynamic Ernie Adams on drums, Juan Picorell on timbales, Danny Feliciano on congas and Paoli Mejias on Percussion. And what's a great Afro Latin set without some "Salsa" inspired vocals. Vocalists Renier Rosario and Lina Marie seemed to stimulate several Pavilion couples to follow their instincts and "happy feet," and engage in some "hot" Latin steps. By the end of the concert, the front of the pavilion became a "dance floor".

What an evening!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A little something for everybody. Special kudos to leaders Darwin Noguera and Victor Garcia, two very young spirited and talented composers/musicians who had the foresight to assemble this august group of exceptional musicians together which resulted in an unbelievable evening of beautiful Afro-Latin sounds. This writer had the opportunity to witnesses their first installment of their similar Ensemble at the HotHouse Club during the 2006 "Clave in Jazz Festival." At that concert, they promised to revive that successful engagement and it finally came to life. Let's just hope it doesn't take another two years for a "repeat performance." Chicagoans (especially those absent this evening) deserve to witness this type of event on a regular basis.

Millennium Park's "Made in Chicago World Class Jazz" Series continues this Thursday, August 14th at 6:30pm with Kelan Phil Cohran's "The Legacy of Sun Ra" These summer programs are presented in partnership with the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Refer to their website at: for details.



Still working on that hot first release.



CALJE (The Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble) was formed in efforts to fuse the musical treasures of Afro- Latin American music and Jazz. Staying true to the Latin musical traditions, this group blends hues from all over the world. The band has a strong foundation in Afro-Cuban Jazz, Brazilian, & Jazz Fusion which then blends it with Flamenco, Central American and Peruvian folkloric rhythms.

CALJE has been called, “the premiere Latin Jazz group in the Midwest”, performing in some of the finest performance halls in the Midwest, highlighting many luminaries of Chicago, who are highly acclaimed by many club promoters, musicians, bands and cultural institutions. With its culturally diverse background, this band is deeply committed to the evolution of music and the preservation of Latin music. Artists in this band have had the opportunity to share the stage with legendary artists such as, Ella Fitzgerald, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Chick Corea, The Temptations, Paquito D'Rivera, and Danilo Perez, among others.

CALJE made its debut by kicking off the notorious Midwest "Jazz en Clave" Latin Jazz Festival at Chicago’s HotHouse Center, alongside the Grammy Award Nominated drummer Dafnis Prieto’s Quintet, Jane Bunnet, and virtuoso violinist Alfredo de la Fe.

Founded by Mexican born trumpeter/composer, Victor Garcia and Nicaraguan born pianist/composer, Darwin Alejandro Noguera, these long-time musical collaborators envisioned an endeavor for Chicago that would follow in the innovative footsteps of the pioneering Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra, the Paquito d'Rivera Pan-American Orchestra, and the Arturo O’Farrill Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra at Lincoln Center.

Critics are raving about this new ensemble and the energy that transpires from them is reverberating all throughout the Chicago land area. Noguera and Garcia have formed an explosive multi-ethnic group that serve as ambassadors of Afro-Latin Jazz, assuring the audience of an unforgettable night of musical fusion and dance.