Plaza Party: Mambo Combo

Friday, May 4, 2018 7:00pm

Plaza Party! Mambo Combo is back, rocking in the alley with some saucy, Cuban music.

Free admission with thanks to the Scioto Foundation.

There has long been a love affair between jazz and Latin rhythms, with American jazz musicians finding Latin styles exotic and Latin musicians equally fascinated by jazz. Both cultures have independently drawn on the music of Africa, which forms the third leg of this love triangle – producing music that is powerfully exciting rhythmically, deeply felt in the body, by turns celebratory and yearning. In Cincinnati, the latest expression of that love affair is Mambo Combo.

Celebrating the classic mambo, Latin jazz and cha-cha of Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Poncho Sanchez and Mark Levine, Mambo Combo has its compass set toward Cuba. It’s stocked with an all-star cast of Cincinnati-area musicians from the bands Tropicoso, ZUMBA, Mambo Diablo, Salsa Renegades and the Blue Wisp Big Band. A four- to seven- piece group that can pare down to play intimate venues or go full-size to bring a powerful big-band-style Latin dance feel, Mambo Combo has also adapted a roster of compelling American jazz standards into the Latin jazz idiom.

With musical director Michael Sharfe on bass, Charles Ali Schweitzer as primary percussionist and Baba Charles Miller as auxiliary percussionist, Mike Darrah on piano, Tim McCord on reeds, John Zappa on  trumpet and various local greats on trombone, Mambo Combo is made up of first-call players with distinguished musical resumes, all in heavy demand for live and studio work.

The band has built its first-Thursday nights at the Greenwich, the historic jazz club in Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills, into an exuberant Cuban Carnaval dance scene, drawing a fervent group of followers who show up to salsa wherever Mambo Combo performs around the tri-state.

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