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JAZZ REVIEW

Quintero plays and the Jell-O is jigglin'

May 12, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

There was no way in which either the Juan Carlos Quintero Quintet or its audience were going to pay much attention to music Friday night until the Lakers had concluded their comeback against the San Antonio Spurs. But as soon as the Conga Room's big-screen television displayed the game's final moments, the rhythms kicked into gear and an enthusiastic audience -- clearly buoyed by the victory -- took the floor, ready to move to the music.

The Colombian-born guitarist has a knack for sparking Latin dance rhythms with the improvisational energies of jazz. And, after opening with "Medellin," the title track from his newly released album, he cranked up the heat with the cha-cha rhythms of "El Camino." With drummer Aaron Serfaty laying down an infectious foundation, the floor was soon graced by some of the Conga Room's characteristically agile dancers.

Other Latin rhythms followed in tunes such as "Los Musicos," "Cumbia Para Los Bandidos (de Amor )" and "Por Que Si." In each, Quintero's lead guitar soared through the surging accompaniment of Serfaty, keyboardist Carlos Cuevas, bassist Eliseo Borrero and percussionist Ron Powell. Fond of describing himself as a melodist, Quintero took precisely that role in his solos, delivering his lines with the sort of warmth and communicativeness one usually associates with vocalists.

The set was further enhanced by strong solo contributions from Cuevas and Borrero. But it was Quintero's well-crafted understanding of the connection between jazz and Latin music (as well as the Lakers' success) that was the primary source of the pleasures in an engagingly entertaining evening.

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