Ileana Santamaria Orchestra
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Ileana Santamaria Orchestra

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The best kept secret in music


"Redman band takes jazz to the limits"

Jazz In The Square 2005 News

Redman band takes jazz to the limits

Monday, August 01, 2005

By Mark Bialczak, Staff writer for the Syracuse Post Standard

Joshua Redman and the Elastic Band pushed and pulled at the boundaries of jazz to close the fourth edition of Jazz in the Square in Clinton Square on Saturday night.

With Redman leading the charge on tenor and soprano saxophones, guitarist Jeff Parker, keyboardist Sam Yahel and drummer Jeff Ballard carried work from their latest disc, "Momentum," into the worlds of funk and R&B.

With Redman keying loops with foot pedals to pump up his sax, once he even sounded like a herd of honking elephants.

But he wouldn't let the center of the juicy set stray too far from jazz, always taking a solo himself or nodding to key the others into improvisations rooted firmly in the genre.

Even when they covered Led Zeppelin's classic rocker "The Crunge," the Elastic Band made the magic of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page sound jazzy indeed.

The Ileana Santamaria Orchestra provided plenty of Latin sizzle earlier on the main stage.

Vocalist Santamaria, daughter of the late Cuban percussionist credited with bringing Afro-Cuban rhythms to the world, Mongo Santamaria, filled the square with joyous sounds that spanned several Latin languages and English, too.

Santamaria and her six-piece band were celebrating the release of her four-song debut disc, and the singer implored everybody to dance along. When people upfront seemed hesitant, she took her wireless microphone into the crowd with her and coaxed two men into sharing dance moves with her. Later, one of those two and another man jumped onto the stage to dance at her invitation.

Santamaria also put some dance moves on her music director, Paul Carlon. The saxophonist from Cazenovia also happens to be her boyfriend of a year, she proudly told the crowd. Carlon seemed happy to be home his mother and Santamaria's mother were both in the crowd and turned in several torrid saxophone runs.

One of the highlights of the set was "Virtue," a song that Santamaria put together herself in tribute to its sound-alike, her father's great hit "Afro Blue."

The title cut from her disc, "I Want What I Want," coaxed fans into singing along in addition to dancing in the aisles.

The trio Manhattan Vibes gave the early evening crowd a taste of what's hot in more than one borough.

With the original song "718," band leader and vibraphonist Christos Rafalides announced, he, bassist John Benitez and drummer Steve Hass were paying tribute to Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, too, because that's the area code Rafalides needs to punch in to call so many great musicians who live in the Big Apple.

Using four mallets, Rafalides led the trio on a hip trip of ringing sounds.

Benitez's Latin bass influences and Hass' funky drum beats added a spicy edge to Rafalides' fast, smooth vibes work.

The Mood Swings Stars of Tomorrow showed that the talent to keep the jazz genre strong is blossoming right here.

More than a dozen young musicians who've participated in the Central New York Arts Foundation's scholastic workshops jammed together with obvious enthusiasm and certain skills.

Forget about potential. These are the students who've immersed themselves in jazz since they were very young and know what they're doing right now.

The lineup included Tom Bronzetti, Andrew Carroll, Noah Kellman, Greg Evans, Mike Tyszko, Tim Angiolillo, Bob Lawler, Brian Bowsher, Alicia Bronzetti, Spencer Murphy, Gordon Bartow, Nick Frenay, Nate Williams, Zack Moser, Wayne Tucker and Chad Lefkowitz.

As an added treat, sax star Bobby Watson took the stage and performed with the young jazz musicians. - Syracuse Post Standard Daily Newspaper

"Max Pollak/Rumba Tap at the Joyce Soho Theater, NYC, May 11-13, 2006, Reviewed by Jane Goldberg"

Max Pollak, a virtuoso tap dancer from Austria, has been rummaging in rumba rhythms since 1996. His recent piece Viis, performed with eight dancers and musicians, was inspired by the ancient epic Kalevala, from a Finnish Creation myth, and describes a conflict between two tribes over a magic, fragile entity that can bring its owner tremendous wealth. A Latin tap dancing Lord of the Rings? Not quite.

Storytelling is not new to the tap genre, though Pollak’s unique synthesis with Latin rhythms is something that reeks of originality. As far back as 1978 Gail Conrad was creating her “narrative fictions,” and Savion Glover’s 1996 Broadway hit Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk uses tap to carry the story of the black experience in U.S. history.

Pollak’s dancing is a lot more abstract than many other tap narratives, and it begs a question: How much of the story do you have to understand to appreciate the dancing you are seeing? It is the same question asked of Martha Graham’s and other modern dance choreographers’ mythical stories in the 1930s, only tap dancing is the communicator. The best kind of tap dancing tells “stories” with the feet, and Pollak’s complex rhythms are what were most accessible in his dance.

Pollak plays an elder in a long robe in this epic, often surrounded by his cast of body percussionists in dreads, clapping, slapping their bodies, and of course tapping. The live music with tenor sax, flute, and alto sax carries the story along, as Pollak, meanwhile, integrates the intricate 5/4 melodies with chanting, the cries of the Afro-Cuban music, and voice tones. A tapless dancer [Ileana Santamaria] sings mournfully. It is a dark piece.

It’s always refreshing to see/hear tap dancing that isn’t happy feet and smiles. In the long run, though, the music and dancing were more important than the story, or at least more clearly defined, and the piece did what rhythm tap does best: sell the feet. In Pollak’s case, complex feet and rhythms meshed throughout the body. The excellent performers were dancers Jenai Cutcher, Chikako Iwahori, Ileana Santamaria, Max Pollak, Lynn Schwab, and musicians Paul Carlon, Anton Denner, and Dimitri Moderbacher. See - Dance Magazine


What I Want (2007)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Cuban-born Ileana Santamaría grew up in a musical household with a dream to carry on the legacy of her father, Cuban percussionist and Latin Jazz pioneer Ramón "Mongo" Santamaría. Just as this dream was nurtured by her father's sterling example of what remarkable fruits the dedication and commitment to making music professionally can bear, it was also helped to flourish by the efforts of Ileana Mesa, her music-loving mother. Ms. Mesa brought her young daughter to Cuba year after year, allowing Ileana's soul to take root in the musical traditions of her birthplace. Thus Ileana "Junior" forged an enduring connection with Afro-Cuban folkloric and contemporary popular music while already in her teens. From the age of 8, Ileana had the opportunity to experience firsthand one of the golden ages of Cuban popular music, traveling to Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, and Spain in the company of friends of the family who happened to be in bands like Los Van Van, Orquesta Revé, Adalberto Y Su Son, and Issac Delgado Y Su Grupo. Observing and experiencing their performances while on tour, as fan and as apprentice, was a crucial component of her musical education.

Living in the United States, spending time in Haiti and Honduras, traveling throughout Latin America, Europe, Africa, and the Arab world have all enriched Ileana considerably from a musical standpoint. She has spent the past decade studying the music and dance of traditions besides her native Cuban one, as varied as Middle Eastern baladi, Egyptian saidi, American Jazz, Algerian rai music, Haitian konpa, Afro-Brazilian samba, axé, and maracatu, Brazilian Bossa Nova and Afro-Peruvian landó and festejo. Ileana, a brilliant multilinguist, has achieved near-native fluency in French, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and Haitian Créole, in addition to her native English and Spanish, adding to her versatility as multicultural performer.

Ileana has spent the last six years working on the New York City scene, singing in Cuban timba and rumba bands, performing Middle Eastern dance at NYC clubs, and bringing her diverse vocal, dance, and percussion skills to collaborations with projects such as critically acclaimed Jazz composer Paul Carlon’s Octet; Afro-Brazilian drum corps Maracatu NY; percussionist Pedro Martínez’ rumba ensemble Ibború; Afro-Peruvian ensemble Afrodita; world Jazz pioneer Peter Apfelbaum and the New York Hieroglyphics; and tap innovator and Max Pollak’s Rumbatap.

Since its founding in 2004, the Ileana Santamaría Orchestra has performed for enthusiastic audiences at a variety of venues, from the main stages at Jazz festivals across the country, opening up for artists like WAR! and Joshua Redman and the Elastic Band (Park City, UT 2006; West Oak Lane, Philadelphia, PA 2006; Syracuse, NY, Jazz in the Square 2005) to headlining at prestigious New York City venues such as Makor Café and Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Ileana's project brings together the talent and experience of musicians who share her youthful energy and passion for the rhythms and melodies that are their common language. The music itself encompasses a number of different traditions with driving rhythms in common, reflecting Ileana’s penchant for diversity and the versatility of her ensemble. Co-founders include saxophonist, flutist, arranger, and composer Paul Carlon, who is also the Orchestra’s musical director; percussionist and vocalist Pedro Martínez; pianist John Stenger; and drummer Ernesto Simpson. These and other top-flight musicians collaborated on the Orchestra's first release, "What I Want", which Ileana produced and will officially release nationwide on Deep Tone Records in 2007. The CD features five of Ileana’s original compositions; one of them, the samba-tinged “Hmmm…delirio”, won Global Rhythm Magazine’s songwriting competition and was featured on the magazine’s CD sampler in the September 2006 issue. More recently, Ileana won another prestigious songwriting award, the 14th Annual Billboard World Song Contest, coming in first in the Latin category with "Cancion para Papa", a heartfelt tribute to her legendary father.

Ileana regards the Orchestra as a vehicle to connect with hundreds of friends-to-be, members of audiences nation- and worldwide. Her fiery stage presence and engaging manner of interacting with the public, drawing them into a dynamic show, make clear that her mission is to spread the joy and the diverse wealth of world music in general and the musics of the African Diaspora in particular. On a personal level, it is, for her, also an opportunity to creatively weave together the many strands of her own development, as lyricist, as singer, as dancer, as language buff and to make her expressive mark.