Friday July 20th
After a very rainy day, a bit of brightening skies over the Hartford skyline was just enough to get a very enthusiastic jazz crowd to head over to Bushnell Park for the opening night of the 21st Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz. Although the opening ceremonies were a little delayed due to last minute tweaking of the sound, all of us there were none the less grateful for the clearing skies over head.
Opening act was Layla Angulo and her group of young, accomplished Latin musicians. Layla on sax and lead vocals, brought her own Latin flavor to the park stage. Very nice festival opening.
Yea, so maybe the night air was a little chilly for mid July, but that did not last long. Once Steve Oquendo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra hit the stage the heat was on. Mostly New York City based, this group of 18 well established musicians sizzled. These individual performers have roots that go back to Latin greats such as Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Tito Rodriquez, Eddie Palmieri, Artura Sandoval and many, many more. This diversity allows the Steve Oquendo Latin Jazz Orchestra the freedom to explore improvisation and fusion of rhythms and harmonies expanding the stereotyped ideas of Latin Jazz.
The newly established tradition of opening the Greater Hartford Jazz Festival with Latin Jazz was once again spot on.