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...Jazz act dazzles at Queen's Hall concert

By Terry Joseph
September 08, 2003

Vocalist Lillia Pino Exposito ( also known as Bellita) and her group Jazz Tumbata, among Cuba's foremost exponents of the popular Latin-Jazz hybrid, played to a Queen's Hall, Port of Spain audience that spent the show's second half in almost continuous bursts of rapturous applause.

In the eventually- Friday night full house were well-known jazz enthusiasts Attorney-General Glenda Morean-Phillips, Canadian High Commissioner Simon Wade, Ivan Laughlin, Dr Lester Forde, Jennifer Hudson-Phillips, Esther Le Gendre, David Abdulah and Pearl Eintou Springer.

In halting English, Bellita acknowledged the thunderous response to every song performed by her Grammy-nominated group, whose other three members, bassist Miguel Antonio Miranda Lopez, saxophonist Livan Morejon Quian and percussionist Mauricio Guiterrez Upmann never settled for playing only their designated instruments.

On occasion, Bellita herself used one hand to cut a few licks on bongoes and chimes while the other maintained its duty on electric piano. Quain doubled on flute and additional percussion and percussionist Upmann played a variety of instruments, including timbales, cowbells, kick-drum, tumbata, congas, ride and crash cymbals, but it was Lopez, simultaneously playing bass, congas, high-hat and kick-pedal drum who truly astonished the audience.

With right hand playing a vigorous conga-beat, he used his right foot to clap the high-hat cymbals, left foot for pedal of the electronic bass-drum and the fingers of his left hand to bar the notes on his bass-guitar with enough firmness as to clearly register the flurry of notes that comprise a Latin-jazz bottom.

Dressed in black sphagetti-strap top and floor-length skirt featuring broad horizontal bands of pastel earth-tones, with fish-net knee-length gold overlay, Bellita scatted in flawless voice, while her fingers darted up and down the keys with hummingbird speed and precision.

She rendered three pieces by Miranda, "En Directo", "Mi Ser" and "De Viaje", Wayne Shorter's "Mahjong", Billy Childs' "Midland" and "Like Father, Like Son", her own works in "Motivos de Dios" and "Caminando", saving Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" for the finale; inviting opening act Moyenne to join the jam.

Produced by Chantal Esdelle and Judith Laird for the Ethnic Jazz Club, it was a tightly run show, although some of Moyenne's simpler pieces may have taken too much time with a series of solos playing over uncomplicated progressions; the absence of musical challenge risking repetition rather than encouraging adventure.

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