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It's fun with fusion at orchestra gig

June 02, 2008|Lynne Heffley

Alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe, one of Japan's most respected and influential musicians, and Spanish classical guitar maestro Angel Romero will perform in concert with the Asia America Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles.

Eclectic offerings will include pieces by Charlie Parker, Beethoven and the premiere of veteran jazz artist David Benoit's flamenco-flavored new work, "Dolores Del Carmen."

Watanabe will perform "Charlie Parker With Strings," among other selections. "Dolores Del Carmen," with soloist Romero, pays tribute to Benoit's late aunt, one of flamenco great Jose Greco's dancers, who became quadriplegic in later life.

"She led a very colorful, exciting life," Benoit said. "And then she had this tragic thing happen." But she was still able to smile, he said, and Romero helped him translate Del Carmen's "love of life and passion" into themes with a "salsa, flamenco kind of rhythm."

Beethoven's "Pastorale" Symphony and a piece by this year's winner of the orchestra's annual composition competition round out the program.

Benoit, the orchestra's director and conductor, has had a decided effect on the group. Since he took the helm in 2001, the locally based professional orchestra has evolved a signature East-meets-West fusion of classical music and jazz.

"I feel like I'm finally ready to let the world know what we're doing," Benoit said. "We've found this new little niche, and it's exciting."

-- Lynne Heffley

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