Music conveys emotions that words cannot express and unites us through shared experience. Each week of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Hispanic Alliance and the Greenville Jazz Collective will bring one of four mini Latin Serenatas to your inbox, and the world. We are incredibly grateful to our allies in the arts, GVL Media, the SC Arts Commission and Fête Magazine, for making this dream a reality. These recordings are yours to enjoy and share at no cost. We only ask that you consider supporting the artists who are giving so much of themselves during a year when live performance has been nearly impossible. Please consider a gift in support of the Greenville Jazz Collective, and subscribe to our newsletters to receive our concert links directly.
Latin Serenata #1
Bésame Mucho, which translates as "kiss me a lot" was written by Mexican songwriter and concert pianist, Consuelo Velásquez. She wrote the Bolero as a teen, at which time, she admits, she had never been kissed. Originating from Cuba in the late 19th century, Bolero rhythm spread in popularity throughout the Latin world. Since its composition in the early 1940's, Bésame Mucho has been performed by a plethora of elite artists, and is considered a jazz standard. Some music historians believe it is the most recorded song in history.
Latin Serenata #2
"Afro Blue" is a captivating piece with rhythm anchored in the congas, around which the rest of the instruments in the arrangement seem to sway. It was composed by Cuban conga player, Mongo Santamaria, in 1959, the year Castro's revolution caused many musicians to flee the country. It is the first jazz standard written in the 3:2 African cross-rhythm, and encompasses the journey of the musical heritage of the Rumba from Africa, via the slave trade, and its evolution and growth within Cuba, one of the most musically influential countries in Latin America. It is appropriate, then, that "Afro Blue" comes from the album "Afro Roots."
Latin Serenata #3
We are privilege to record and share "Oriente" an original composition by Greenville Jazz Collective Guitarist, Jorge Garcia, who boasts a career of over 30 years in music and guitar instruction, performing, and recording. This piece features guitar and keyboard improv solos and a wistful melody that somehow leaves the listener refreshed and uplifted. It stands toe to toe with the jazz standards in the previous serenatas in both musicality and performance. In gratitude for this musical gift, we are featuring Jorge Garcia's story of how his life and the loss of a homeland inspired this composition...
La Historia Behind the Music
I was born in Cuba, in the province of Oriente, the town of Bayamo. I came to the United States in 1968 with my parents and my brother. At the young age of 8, my parents made the decision to flee the growing repression in, what is now, Castro's Cuba. We left with nothing but the clothes on our backs and memories of what we previously called home.
The United States was a complete culture shock. I came from a small town where people all knew each other their entire lives, to Miami. Neither my parents nor my brother and I spoke English. Through the strength of my parents who sacrificed everything a new life filled with opportunities was cultivated in what is my forever home, America. The only requirement for my brother and I was that we worked hard in whatever we did.
Having said that, I hold only fond memories of my roots and birthplace. I had been surrounded by music from as early as I can remember. In Cuba, music is a part of daily life. My love for music was supported by both of my parents. My brother gave me my first guitar when I was 12, and I began trying to figure it out. Later, I studied music with Vincent Bredice, took classes, and practiced 8 hours a day.
The song Oriente was inspired by all of that; my parents, my brother, the country I left behind, and Bayamo, Oriente, my town. my attempt to transpose the many stories my family shares and personal memories into notes. The city of Bayamo, in the province of Oriente, will always hold a special place in my heart and this song is my confession of just that.
Latin Serenata #4
The Greenville Jazz Collective takes us on a wild ride with "Guataca City" an upbeat salsa driven by "son clave," a beat that outlines the steps of the salsa dance, and provides its characteristic sycopation. Song composer Paquito D'Rivera is a Cuban-born musician accomplished in both Jazz, and Latin styles, and as a classical performer and composer. He is the winner of 14 GRAMMY Awards. This song is just as exciting to watch in performance as the ensemble takes turns with interpretive solos. Patrick Lopez demonstrates his incredible musicality as he transitions between trumpet and keyboard riffs without missing a beat.
This classic Cuban song is known round the world for its irresistible dance rhythm. It was popularized by the Cuban latin jazz band, Buena Vista Social Club, becoming part of their musical renaissance of pre-revolutionary music. The lyrics are a double-entendre: Poor Tula has gone to sleep with a candle still lit. It caught her whole room on fire, and now everyone has come to put out the flames and watch the building burn. However, vocalists often perform this song with free-style lines that indicate that the fire may be a metaphor for desire, and that Tula's room was getting pretty hot on its own. Done well, the lyrics are so subtle that the music is kid-safe, while giving the grownups a good laugh.