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Latin Night offered high notes

The Charleston Jazz Orchestra welcomed special guests for a zesty concert

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Charleston Jazz Orchestra
Charleston Music Hall
Sept. 25

In true Southern fashion, a large crowd of jazz fans trickled in late into the Charleston Music Hall for Latin Night, the fourth concert of the Jazz Artists of Charleston's 2010 season. The renowned Charleston Jazz Orchestra, led by conductor and trumpeter Charlton Singleton, has garnered steady attention and accolades since its inception in 2008, thanks to rousing performances and high-profile special guests. This night was no exception.

Although the Latin Night program stated that the music would begin promptly at 7 p.m., emcee Jack McCray did not take the stage until 20 minutes later to officially get the night's events underway. His onstage demeanor set the tone for the night as he invited the at-capacity crowd to sit back, relax, and "take some dust off of the day."

Singleton entered to a loud ovation, chatted with the crowd, and previewed what the CJO had in store for the night and down the road. They kicked things off with Duke Ellington's "Flaming Sword," an upbeat piece that featured outstanding solos from the brass and woodwind sections.

Singleton introduced the first special guest of the evening, flautist Regina Helcher Yost, for the next batch of songs, starting with the three-movement "Sonata Latino." Their arrangement started off with a heavy dose of bongos and piano before the full band kicked in with much majesty.

There was an evident chemistry between Brazilian guitarist/vocalist Duda Lucena and vocalist Leah Suárez (the president of the JAC) as the two performed a steamy duet titled "Samba em Prelúdi." Lucena earned a well-deserved cheer as he exited the stage, leaving Suárez to perform a spicy version of "Save the Last Dance for Me."

After an intermission that lasted just "15 jazz minutes," Singleton introduced pianist Fernando Rivas to the stage for the start of the second set. Rivas is not only a Lowcountry local, but also happens to be a Grammy- and Emmy-Award winner. "Afro Blue" featured some feisty hand percussion solos from another special guest, Ecuadorian-American Gino Castillo, whose inventive and exhilarating use of congas drew the approval of the audience.

The second set stripped down to a core group, featuring Singleton's trumpet and John Cobb's baritone sax at the forefront. The music of the smaller combo didn't lose any power, and it grabbed the attention of the audience.

"Fuego" featured guitarist/vocalist Cristobal Cisneros. He alternated between acoustic and electric, which balanced the mix of flamenco and rock 'n' roll as the full orchestra once again joined the fray.

The CJO closed the concert with rendition of jazz icon Chick Corea's "Spain," an aptly titled arrangement given the night's theme. After receiving a standing ovation from a wildly appreciative crowd, they performed an encore to preview their forthcoming Pops Night, leaving the audience wanting more.

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