The inaugural Latin Jazz Fest presents three nights filled with authentic Latin jazz musical performances. The celebration is sponsored by EMIT and produced by musician, composer and educator David Manson, and it’s set to feature artists representing multiple countries and styles.
“Latin jazz has a strong history, and holding Latin Jazz Fest is a great way to introduce people to the genre,” says Manson.
Dr. David Manson began his performance career with the Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra and has been teaching at St. Petersburg College since 1991. He reestablished the college’s Jazz Band and was among the founding members of SPC’s MIRA (Music Industry/Recording Arts) program.
Manson is the founder of the yearly St. Petersburg Jazz Festival, a five-day annual event featuring free jazz workshops and visiting jazz artists since 2008. “We are starting this new jazz festival to complement our annual St. Petersburg Jazz Festival, which is in late February,” he explains.
A different headlining artist will be featured each of the three nights of Latin Jazz Fest.
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MJR Latin Project & Friends will open for the festival on July 9. Led by composer, bassist, producer and educator Mauricio J. Rodriguez, original Cuban compositions will be performed along with new Cuban contemporary music and Latin jazz staples. Rodriguez is a former member of the famed Fervet Opus jazz quartet who were prominent throughout Cuba in the ‘80s, and has toured at festivals around the world.
This concert will highlights music from the CD Luz, produced by Rodriguez and Vicente Viloria. The ensemble features Zachary Bornheimer on saxophone, John W. Richardson on piano, Andy Forner on drums and Sergio Gala on percussion, with Mauricio Rodriguez on bass. Special guests include Richie Viruet on trumpet, Renesito Avich on Cuban Tres and Guitar, and Orlando “Landy” Mosqueda on percussion and piano.
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Gumbi Ortiz performs July 10. Superstar guitarist Al Di Meola’s main percussionist for more than 25 years, Ortiz is a beloved Bay area musician and teacher based in Gulfport who is session leader of his music group Latino Projekt.
Ortiz will perform with New Groove City, bringing improvisational Afro Cuban rhythms, jazz and funk harmonies to the Palladium Theater. The group features Butch Thomas on saxophone, Kenny Walker on bass, Aron Ferre on keyboards, Luis Alicea on drums, Gumbi Ortiz on percussion and Evan Garr on violin.
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Brazilian guitarist Tabajara Belo opens the third night of Latin Jazz Fest with a solo performance before being accompanied by O Som Do Jazz. Belo has gained notoriety for his guitar solos and musical compositions along with his collaborations with various prestigious artists throughout Brazil.
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O Som Do Jazz (meaning “the sound of jazz” in Portuguese) is Manson’s own group, a Brazilian jazz ensemble based in St. Petersburg. They currently have three CDs and their music has been featured in the original soundtracks of TV shows on Fox and HBO. Ensemble members include Andrea Moraes Manson as vocalist, Latin GRAMMY awardee Jose Valentino Ruiz on flute and saxophone, David Manson on trombone, Bruno Miranda on piano, Alejandro Arenas on bass and Mark Feinman on drums, with Tabajara Belo on guitar.
Latin Jazz Fest is sponsored by EMIT, a nonprofit arts organization directed by Manson since 1995. The EMIT series dedicates itself to the presentation of “innovative and adventurous” music. More information on EMIT and their projects can be found at emitseries.org.
Latin Jazz Fest is an in-person event with limited seating, socially distanced.
Ticket information can be found at mypalldium.org.