This band also requires knowledgeable and gifted musicians, including at least two university professors, some half-dozen of their current and former students, and several veterans of what Sanabria calls “the salsa and jazz wars.” Percussionist Obanilu Allende’s power and agility, especially on the baril de bomba, stand out, as does trumpeter Shareef Clayton’s pithy, bebop-inflected solos. These musicians’ formidable gifts range widely, as do their ages: In March, 19-year-old Christian Sands sat in ably on piano, while Hiram “El Pavo” Remon, 79, handled the maracas with devastating sensitivity.
Before the previous week’s gig, the band worked its way through “Worstward Ho,” a composition by band member Chris Washburne based on a Samuel Beckett story. (“Disintegrate into nothingness,” read one of the chart’s marks.) Later, the group performed another of his tunes, “Pink,” which punctuates a Cuban son montuno with brass hits worthy of Parliament. “This band is the best workshop I can imagine for my tunes,” says the trombonist, a tenured Columbia University professor who has played on the New York scene for nearly 20 years. “Bobby is a torch-bearer in this tradition, but he’s not a historicist. I can write stuff for this band that pushes the limits.”
The FB Lounge is on East 106th between Lex and 3rd. Anyone Up for a Trip to East Harlem?