Berklee Latin All-Stars Wow Monterey
For a dozen years, some of Berklee's finest students have performed at the annual Monterey Jazz Festival. Monterey, the world's oldest continually presented jazz festival—described by one local wag as "Burning Man for the Starbucks crowd"—is a friendly, good-vibe showcase each fall for the planet's best musicians, who rave about the place and look forward to return visits whenever possible.
In 2008's edition Berklee was represented by Down Beat magazine's 2008 Best College Jazz Band: the Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars (a.k.a. La Timbistica). They wasted no time making an impression. Friday night's show earned a rave by Monterey Herald writer Mac MacDonald, veteran of more than 15 Monterey festivals: "The six-piece Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars from the Berklee College of Music in Boston kicked the festival into another gear with an incendiary set of Latin jazz. This ensemble is as talented a group as I've heard here in the past several years, especially flutist Enrique 'Kalani' Trinidad, who lit up the Garden Stage with his incredible force and technique."
The All-Stars's Saturday's performance/clinic in the intimate Coffee House Gallery was also a triumph, as the band demonstrated and explained the intricate rhythms their schooling, talent, and dedication have allowed them to master. The group bowed out with the breakneck closer "Puertorro," which brought a loud and lengthy standing ovation from the overflow house.
This year's festival held a special bonus for the All-Stars. Cuban flute virtuoso Maraca was recording a live album with the cream of the Latin jazz world, including former Berklee faculty member/superstar conguero Giovanni Hidalgo and newly minted MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón ‘98. Maraca and Hidalgo invited the All-Stars to attend the band's rehearsals and hang out backstage. Swapping jokes and picking up performance tips, the students made the most of the quality time with their heroes, and no doubt brought some new wrinkles home with them on the red-eye.