Howard, Chris, Kim, Scott, Claude, and Gary

By Jesse Bertel

The Jazz Journey series is back by popular demand with A Return to Latin Jazz. Latin percussionist Able Valentino joins the Prescott Jazz Summit All Star Combo at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 18, in the Elks Crystal Hall, on the third floor of the Performing Arts Center, 117 E. Gurley St.

Celebrate the marriage of music from Latin America, Spain, Africa and the United States, all coming together to form Latin and Afro-Cuban Jazz.

According to saxophonist Tony Vacca, Latin Jazz fuses traditional Jazz sounds with the cultural influences of the areas where it originated.

“Afro-Cuban actually came out of New Orleans because it was such a melting pot there, so many different cultures there all living in the same area, that it influence a lot of the music there,” Vacca said. “That’s why you hear so many different forms that came out of New Orleans.”

Primarily, Latin Jazz is defined by the genre’s use of tempo with specific percussion instruments.

“Percussion would be a big part of that in Latin Jazz, a lot of Latin percussion, so congas, bongos, different Latin drums and cymbals or, you know, different accessory things like claves, castanets, things like that all come from Latin influences,” Vacca said. “The beat and the feel is going to be different than swing jazz or classic jazz.”

The challenge of playing Latin Jazz, according to Vacca, is accuracy and playing it stylistically correct.

“You listen to the examples of people from the past and how they did it, and you take a page from that,” he said. “I would say just making it realistic and making it stylistically correct, you know, going from the influences that came before and making sure that you’re paying tribute to those.”

Vacca’s interest in jazz started at a young age, growing up in a family of musicians.

“I came from a musical family, grew up in New Jersey — there was always music playing there, always people coming over and jamming,” Vacca said. “I had a lot of influences very early on, and because I was exposed to it, I got to hear how it sounded. So when I started playing, it was easy for me to kind of just copy or mock that. That’s how most players start, is they copy something they like and eventually find their own voice.”

Beer, wine and other beverages are available for purchase at the performance. Parties of four or six will be given their own table (as available). Larger and smaller parties may be combined or divided to accommodate all guests. All seating will be assigned prior to entry.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit prescottelkstheatre.org or call 928-756-2844.

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him

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