Monday, June 25, 2007

Federico Britos Ruiz and Jorge Garcia at the Gorilla Theatre

It was SRO on Sunday afternoon for one of the most impressive Tampa Bay area jazz shows in recent memory.

Violinist Federico Britos Ruiz and guitarist Jorge Garcia held forth on two sets' worth of jazz and Latin jazz at the Gorilla Theatre, in the final Tampa Jazz Club show of the '06-'07 season.

Britos Ruiz,* born in Uruguay, and Cuban native Garcia were by turns elegant and fiery on original tunes and such favorites as "Black Orpheus," "Honeysuckle Rose," "Besame Mucho," "The Girl From Ipanema" and, yes, a laidback, Latin-ized version of Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train." The group expanded to a quartet for the bulk of the concert, with the addition of a top-shelf local rhythm section -- bassist Richard Drexler and drummer John Jenkins.

Garcia and Britos Ruiz demonstrated their mettle as instrumental virtuosos and gifted jazz stylists, as comfortable with bebop and swing as they are with rhythms and textures born in the Caribbean and Latin America (including Brazil). They are terrific, inspired soloists, too.

Garcia, who speaks English (Britos Ruiz mostly speaks Spanish) made reference to a new CD that the duo has recorded, with contributions from Cuban bass great Cachao.** Looking forward to hearing that CD and hoping that the two will return to the area before long -- perhaps, as Tampa Jazz Club president Jimmy Lyons suggested, to play the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in '08. Their debut collaboration, titled The Sound of Strings, with liner notes by Andy Garcia, was released two years ago on the Miami-based Yiyi label.

And here's looking forward to another great season of jazz next year at the Gorilla, an intimate, first-rate listening room located northwest or Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

*I first heard Britos Ruiz on recent Latin-jazz recordings by Charlie Haden, and I had the chance to hear the violinist play with Haden at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

**I had the great good fortune several years ago of hearing Cachao and Cuban-born pianist Bebo Valdes rehearse and play in Miami, in a show affiliated with the Miami Film Festival, in conjunction with the premiere of the Latin-jazz concert film, Calle 54. I shook hands with Cachao, and said hello to him (he, too, speaks very little English) and I interviewed Valdes for a story that appeared in the Miami New Times, the St. Petersburg Times and other publications around the country.

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