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Salsa Spices Day 3 Of Queen Mary Jazz Fest

May 20, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

Never underestimate the power of the salsa. That was the lesson to be learned on Sunday, the third of the Queen Mary Jazz Festival's four days. With five of the seven main attractions partially or entirely dominated by Latin rhythms, the crowd occupied about 90% of the 7,400 seats in the dock area.

Mainstays of the 7 1/2-hour presentation were the bands of Poncho Sanchez, Mongo Santamaria and Tito Puente. Their instrumentation is roughly the same: three horns, three percussion, piano and bass. All three served up authentic mixtures of Cuban, African and American jazz concepts.

Sanchez, at 34 by far the youngest, was the most innovative; Santamaria was the big crowd-pleaser whose highly charged rhythms had hundreds of fans gyrating in the aisles. Puente, a veteran who led his first group almost 40 years ago, seemed a little anticlimactic, if only because he offered nothing the other two had not performed at least as well.

A conga player who came to prominence with the late Cal Tjader, Sanchez covered all the territory from basic '50s mambo to an intense African-Cuban piece called "Half and Half" and one tune that captured the hard-bop flavor of the '60s.

Santamaria was strongest in the solo department; aside from his own persuasive congas, there was a stupendous timbale soloist, John Andrews. Bob Quaranta set up dramatic moods at the piano; the versatile Tony Hinson, milking the crowd with tricky repetitions, played soprano and tenor saxes as well as flute.

Stan Getz launched his quartet into a Brazilian groove that was aggressive but not abrasive. His tone as supple and appealing as ever, he played a brief bossa nova medley and two tunes by Victor Feldman, as well as the exquisite Billy Strayhorn ballad "Blood Count."

A standing ovation for Getz led to a generally powerful set by his vocal protegee, Diane Schuur. Accompanying herself at the piano, with Getz backing her on three numbers, she brought her flawless diction and dramatic impact to bear on standard, pop and gospel material. Her debt to the late Dinah Washington is so evident that the one or two deliberately exaggerated nasal effects seemed unnecessary. Schuur's closer, "Amazing Grace," brought the rousing reaction she deserved.

Dave Valentin, a flute soloist who has enjoyed healthy record sales, used a Latin funk beat on pieces by Wayne Shorter, Freddy Hubbard and Lennon-McCartney. Valentin has mastered the instrument, along with a few electronic gimmicks, well enough to know how to stir up an audience. Creatively, not much happened.

The one strictly non-Latin instrumental group Sunday was the Charlie Chan Blues Band, heard at the top of the show. With Chan singing and playing harmonica, Ben E. Yee on keyboards and Dave Walker on tenor sax, the sextet went through its John Mayall-Lowell Fulson-Muddy Waters paces with an agreeable lack of pretension.

According to producer Roy Hassett, who with Rodderick Reed and Al Williams put it all together, the festival, due to end Monday evening, was already in the black by late Sunday and will grace Long Beach again in 1987.

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