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Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble turns up the heat with ecelectic mix

Victor Garci(left) DarwNoguerare core founders Chicago Afro-LatJazz Ensemble.

Victor Garcia (left) and Darwin Noguera are the core and founders of the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble.

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Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble

♦ 8 p.m. April 27

♦ Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville

♦ Tickets, $25-$30

♦ (630) 637-7469;

Updated: May 28, 2013 7:26PM

The Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble (CALJE) presents an evening of Afro-Cuban jazz and Latin rhythms April 27 at North Central College’s Wentz Hall in Naperville.

CALJE was founded by Nicaraguan pianist/composer Darwin Noguera and Mexican trumpeter/composer Victor Garcia in 2006. CALJE can perform as a duo of Noguera and Garcia, or as a full ensemble. They have performed and recorded with such artists as Grammy winners Howard Levy from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Brian Lynch from the Eddie Palmieri group, master percussionist Paoli Mejias and legendary trombonist Steve Turre. The groupo’s debut album is called “Blueprints.”

North Central audiences can expect to see the full band, Garcia said, which is a feat in and of itself as his group is comprised of some of Chicago’s top working jazz musicians. Bassist Joshua Ramos, for example, tours with Ramsey Lewis.

“Our gig just happened to fall on a night when he didn’t have a concert, so it worked out,” Garcia said.

Naturally, he wants to feature as many of these musicians as possible.

“It’s really hard because you have so many great soloists in the band and you want everybody to get a piece of the action,” he said. “But that brings to the table to question of which tunes are the soloists going to solo on and is it going to be too long, things like that.”

They will definitely play music from jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie, who was heavily involved in the Afro-Cuban movement.

“That’s four movements of music that encompasses a lot of Dizzy’s career and incorporates a lot of his compositional attributes in a big band setting,” he said. “We’re also going to be doing some numbers by a saxophone player who used to tour with Maynard Ferguson named Juan Turros. He’s a friend from Miami who composed a couple pieces for the band called ‘Send Eggs’ and ‘Bossa Pegajosa,’ which are Cuban and Brazilian influenced, respectively.”

They will also play a couple of big band vocal numbers to feature baritone sax player and singer Papo Santiago, Garcia said.

“That will be really nice. Papo is an incredible vocalist and I get to work with his small group around town,” he said. “I’m really happy to have him on board for this concert.”

Another song you’ll hear is called “Milesmiles” by CALJE co-founder Darwin Noguera. And saxophonist Rocky Yera contributed a piece called “Belonging.”

“It’s a really challenging piece, but it’s beautiful. It has a beautiful melody and a lot of development, and a ... shout chorus. I believe we’re also going to have time to feature an arrangement of Tito Carrillo, one of the trumpet players in the band. The rhythm is a Puerto Rican bomba; a lot of fun, really danceable.”

Garcia commissioned a writer from New York to compose a piece for the band called “Tierra.”

“It’s really beautiful; it has some other instruments in there like clarinet, flute, so we’re going to feature the reed section on that,” he said.

Audiences will be treated to a complete taste of what CALJE can do, Garcia said.

Garcia and Noguera met while the former was in college at Northern Illinois University.

“We had talked about getting together and doing something creative,” he said. They played together, wrote music together, and then got the opportunity to record as a big band from Nick w, president of Chicago Sessions record company.

“He had faith in us to go in the studio and finish the recording, and that has fuel-injected the project because it really invigorated the vision and we were able to festivals here and abroad and spread the love all over the place.”

They’ve continued to write music and hope to record a second album within the next few years.

“We’re bringing our little army [to Naperville], so they should expect a good kind of revolution,” Garcia said. “A musical revolution called CALJE, which blends not only Cuban, not only Puerto Rican, but music from all Latin America, with what is our main love, a process called jazz.

“Jazz is not just [a style of] music, jazz is a creative process where you take any melody and improvise over the harmony and you can really have a dialogue with the rest of the band. It’s the reason why I breathe.”

Annie Alleman is a local free-lance writer.

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