Donald’s notes: Summer Arts, Week 2

Thursday update on the CSU Summer Arts program at Fresno State: a raucous evening of jazz with David Sánchez

This is a roundup of news, reviews and notes from the second week of the CSU Summer Arts program, which is back at Fresno State after a five-year absence. I’ll be updating this post as the week progresses. If you have Summer Arts tidbits or thoughts on a performance you’d like to share, email me at donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com. For the public calendar of events, click here.

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Jazz at Summer Arts: Ernesto Mazar Kindelan, left, David Sánchez and Colin Douglas perform Wednesday night. Photo / Todd Sharp

Sold-out jazz

The scene: the foyer outside the Concert Hall in the Fresno State Music Building, crowded with people hoping to get into the CSU Summer Arts Latin jazz concert.

The excitement: This is the first sold-out event of the Summer Arts season. There’s an artistic electricity in the air, heightened by an air of exclusivity, as people on a waiting list petition the box office worker.

The guest artists: Grammy Award-winning saxophonist David Sánchez, who’s joined by an all-star lineup: jazz pianist and composer Miguel De Armas, percussionists Colin Douglas and Kendrick Freeman, bassist Ernesto Mazar Kindelan and Carlitos Medrano, maker of magic on the congas.

The intro: Summer Arts director Rachel Nardo welcomes the packed audience and introduces the program’s Fresno Community Board, which this year raised almost $40,000 for student scholarships.

The Summer Arts course: Sánchez and his guest artists are teaching in the “Latin Jazz: Beyond the Clave” two-week session, with a focus on Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Tonight’s concert is an homage to this addictive sound.

The music: It’s exuberant yet controlled, fiery yet chill, pounding with rhythm yet glossy with tone. Sánchez tells us that he’s been particularly interested recently in Haitian-inspired music — not just the rhythms but the melodies. In my favorite title of the set, a contemplative tune titled “Canto,” his saxophone dawdles and soars almost as if he’s a chorister chanting a liturgical offering.

The breakout moments: There are many, from De Armas’ passionate piano to Kindelan’s ebullient bass. (I love how Kindelan mouths and almost sings along as he performs, he’s so caught up in the music.) And Medrano’s hands move so quickly it’s like trying to capture a blur.

The audience: My favorite in the crowd is a woman sitting in the first row at the far left of the hall. She’s wearing yellow shoes and a yellow dress emblazoned with big blue and white daisies. As the ensemble plays, she moves in time to the music, half clapping the beat, with a smile on her face as wide as one of those daisies.

The random thought: I bet this is the coolest event this high-society piano (more often used at Fresno State for classical-music events) has ever participated in.

The philosophical moment: Sánchez, in his gracious address to the audience, reminds us that the core of this music is about connectivity between the musicians. The same goes for Summer Arts, he says: “This is amazing when all the arts come together — the exchange of ideas.”

The takeaway: I’m by no means a trained jazz expert, so I turned to two jazz fans, Michael and Debra Parola, for their reaction afterward. Both loved the concert. (“I adored it,” Debra says, after buying a Medrano CD.) Michael points out that Sánchez seemed to be channeling John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, an awe-inspiring experience.

The student showcase: You can be immersed in more Latin jazz at the free performance 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 8, in the Concert Hall.

(Updated 12:30 p.m. Thursday, July 6)


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Preparing for showcases

In the photos above, CSU Summer Arts students work diligently on their upcoming student showcases. These free events/performances are great ways to connect with youthful creativity. Top, students in the Chamber Music: Strings and Pianos course rehearse for their showcase at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 7, at the Concert Hall.  Bottom, students in the Expanded Cinematography in the New Age course will present what they learned during intensive study with cinematographer Bruce Logan at 2:15 p.m. Friday, July 7, at the John Wright Theatre. (Photos by Todd Sharp, CSU Summer Arts)

(Updated 11 a.m. Thursday, July 6)


Latin jazz concert

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Wednesday’s public event (7 p.m. Concert Hall) is the last guest-artist performance of the first Summer Arts two-week session. (The free student showcase performances are still to come.) Grammy Award-winning saxophonist David Sánchez is joined on stage by Miguel de Armas (piano), Carlitos Medrano (congas and percussion), Ernesto Mazar-Kindelán (bass), Colin Douglas (drums), and Kendrick Freeman (percussion).

Here’s a fun fact about Sánchez: He joined Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra in 1990, and Gillespie himself became Sanchez’ mentor. Wow.

(Updated 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 5)


Chamber music sounds

In the above video, CSU Summer Arts assistant director Joanne Sharp gives a tour of the chamber music class. You’ll be able to hear these students in their upcoming showcase 7:30 p.m. Friday.

(Updated 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 5)


Related story: CSU Summer Arts program returns to Fresno with enthusiastic leadership and commitment to firing up the cultural scene


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Author: Donald Munro

Covering the arts in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond.

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