Leading a 19-piece band on a mild Halloween night, Bronx-born bandleader Bobby Sanabria entered the stage wrapped in a vampire cape, and speaking in a faux Romanian accent, he introduced the show as a presentation of “the music of the gods.”
After sitting behind his drumkit, Sanabria led the ensemble with a highly complex number that showcased the brass section. The band quickly went into the second number that was a bit jazzier than the opener, allowing for lots of improvisation – especially from Sanabria himself, who contributed a breathtaking solo on the snare. Sanabria thanked the audience for making it to the show, and then went on with “The Hour Of Darkness,” which he said was dedicated “to the Bush administration.” Featuring mostly the saxophone section, the number had various rhythmical changes that proved to be a special challenge to the percussionists, who seemed to be in deep concentration in order to follow the quirky timing.
The sound mixing at first wasn't all that great – we could barely hear the piano as he performed a brief solo, and everything else seemed to be a bit too loud. Those minor problems were thankfully corrected by the first half of the set thanks to quick action from the center's sound technicians.
One of the concert's highlights came when Sanabria paused to explain the origins of Latin jazz in New York, starting with early pioneers like Machito, who was one of the first conga players to perform with jazz bands Stateside. He also introduced “Tin Tin Deo,” a composition by Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo made popular by Dizzy Gillespie that specially showcased the bassist and pianist. For those who are unfamiliar with the tune, it can be very surprising, as it progresses from an Afro-Cuban mode to blues and back.
Bobby Sanabria's big band is well rehearsed, and this is evident in the leader's position in front of the ensemble. Seated at his drumkit, he mostly has his back to the musicians. When the bandleader can play freely without having to do too much conducting from the stage, it means that there is perfect chemistry happening on stage, to the delight of those sitting in the audience.