JMArts’ Latin jazz concert rescheduled for March

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SILER CITY — Gregg Gelb and La Fiesta Latin Jazz Sextet will now perform a free concert at Jordan-Matthews High School on Friday, March 11, JMArts announced Tuesday.

The concert, to be held at 7 p.m. in J-M’s auditorium, had originally been scheduled to top off an afternoon student jazz clinic last Friday night until a third wintry weather forecast last week forced JMArts to postpone it.

Friday’s Latin jazz clinic for student musicians still took place as planned, save for an earlier afternoon start time. From 1 to 3 p.m., the JM Jazz Ensemble, plus several 8th grade musicians from Chatham Middle and Silk Hope, explored and learned to play Latin jazz under the aegis of six acclaimed jazz musicians.

For both participants and observers, the experience was “absolutely outstanding,” according to JMArts President Rose Pate.

“Most of our students have probably never seen musicians at that level in person and up close,” Pate told the News + Record. “And the sectional clinics were well-planned and engaging, showing students the basics of how jazz works, giving them a chance to try improvisation, and demonstrating how to get optimal tone from their instruments. I can’t wait for our whole community to hear this incredible group!”

Gregg Gelb and La Fiesta Latin Jazz Sextet divided students into sessions by instrument — trumpet, trombone, woodwind and percussion. J-M 9th grader and percussionist Kaleb Moffitt worked with other drummers during the clinic, where he played conga drums for the first time.

“When they [the band] came on stage and played Latin jazz, I’d never heard of that,” he said. “When they played their pieces, it all flowed together and when they had their solos, they came out and floated right back in. I thought it was beautiful. I got a little teary watching them; it was amazing.”

During their 75-minute concert in March, Gregg Gelb and La Fiesta Latin Jazz Sextet will also lead about two dozen student musicians in one number. The group’s featured tunes include “Oye Como Va,” “Cape Verdean Blues,” “Mambo Inn” and “Son de la Loma.” Scheduled to play are the band’s regular five members, plus trumpet player Al Strong.

First formed around 10 years ago, Gregg Gelb and La Fiesta Latin Jazz Quintet plays regular gigs at festivals, schools and clubs across the state. They’re a registered five-member band with the United Arts Council and regularly participate in Wake County’s Artists-In-Schools program.

A Sanford native, Gelb is a professional saxophonist and jazz composer who also leads other North Carolina-based jazz bands like The Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra and the award-winning Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble. The band’s other four regular members include cross-cultural percussionist Beverly Botsford, jazz pianist Steve Anderson, trombonist and bassist Andy Kleindienst as well as drummer Ramon Ortiz, who’s originally from the Dominican Republic.

Because of Chatham’s ongoing COVID-19 case surge and school policy, attendees will be required to wear masks while they enjoy the indoor concert, as of Feb. 1. For any updated information, visit JMArts.org or JMArts’ social media.

“Watching and listening reminded me of the work you have to put in, but there’s this great outcome,” Moffitt said. “You work hard day in and out, and you see everything come together from all the musicians, and it’s amazing. ... Anybody who likes music should come to this concert.”

Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at victoria@chathamnr.com.

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