While the West Coast has built its own unique history of Latin Jazz over the past several decades, with significant contributions from musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and beyond, there’s one area that the West...
While the West Coast has built its own unique history of Latin Jazz over the past several decades, with significant contributions from musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and beyond, there’s one area that the West Coast has missed until recently – the Latin Big Band. While Latin Jazz really took roots and grew into an essential part of the jazz scene through the work of big bands led by folks like Tito Puente, Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, and more, these groups were established around East Coast aesthetics. The West Coast certainly has an important history of Latin Jazz, based around artists like Cal Tjader, Poncho Sanchez, John Santos, and more, most of this work is based around smaller groups. We’ve seen groups fluctuate into larger ensembles, but we haven’t really seen the existence of a working Latin Jazz Big Band that continually inspires audiences and gets them moving on the dance floor.
The Pacific Mambo Orchestra has been changing the state of West Coast Latin Jazz history by bringing the Latin Big Band to life in the San Francisco Bay Area. Led by trumpet player Steffen Kuehn and pianist Christian Tumalan, the group honed their sound and approach through a regular Monday night gig at San Francisco salsa mainstay Cafe Cocomo. Working every week with some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians, the PMO developed a hard hitting sound that combined salsa, jazz, and mambo power. Their rising profile and popularity among the Bay Area scene led to the recording of their self titled debut album, which featured guest appearances from folks like percussionist Karl Perazzo, drummer Tommy Igoe, guitarist Ray Obiedo, and vocalist Kenny Washington. The recording has exploded in popularity, finding an audience for the PMO around the world. As the band’s reputation continues to grown, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra has made the existence of West Coast Big Band Latin Jazz a reality and ensured that its a tradition that will me around for a while.
This video finds the Pacific Mambo Orchestra performing live, giving us an interesting blend of East Coast heritage with a song made famous by Machito’s orchestra, “Asi No, Papa,” and some West Coast soul. The clip features the band’s heavy hitting rhythm section, solid horn section, and some great vocals in both Spanish and English from Alexa Weber Morales. It’s an inspired performance that shows the Latin Big Band tradition alive and well on the West Coast.
Check out Pacific Mambo Orchestra’s Website
Check out the Pacific Mambo Orchestra’s debut release:
Pacific Mambo Orchestra
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