Arturo Sandoval’s headlining performance for Johnson County Community College’s Jazz Winterlude festival Saturday was a relentless display of fun, wide-ranging styles.
He started the show with Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” After a ballad-like flugelhorn introduction, he lit into a funk beat. Sandoval switched to trumpet, walking off the stage and into the aisle, getting the crowd riled up right from the start.
His musical ability goes beyond mere virtuosity, with incomprehensibly agile trumpet playing that extended from tones in the tuba range to piercingly high, along with that mellifluous flugelhorn timbre. That would be impressive enough, but he also played keyboards (complete with generous use of a wah wah effect), percussion and a little electric bass. He even scatted briefly, though the mic wasn’t picking it up well enough to be audible.
Sandoval performed a song he wrote in honor of his musical idol and mentor, Dizzy Gillespie: “Every Day I Think of You.” While the lyrics came off a bit saccharine, they were imbued with heartwarming respect, and his nasally tenor displayed the same nuance of line as his trumpet playing.
The terms jazz and Latin don’t fully convey the number of influences that layered and looped through the concert, with rare moments of straight-ahead style.
Instead, the musicians (Ed Calle, saxophone; Dennis Marks, bass; Alexis Pututi, drums; Armando Pututi, percussion and Kemuel Roig, piano) seemed to challenge one another, daring to react to changes mid-line and to catch rhythmic tricks as they switched from swing to bebop to samba to bossa to funk to rock and back around.
No one onstage relished that more than Sandoval.
While it seemed as though someone was going to lose a wheel in the poly-rhythmic exuberance, they were so attuned to one another that a mere look, a few notes, the stamp of a foot and they were sent coursing off.
Sandoval soloed on piano for a lush, exploratory “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” the band re-entering for a Latin-infused percussion break.
A 20-minute take on Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” shut down the performance, a funky freewheeling encore with all out drumming, synth glissandi and Sandoval, briefly, in a soft moment of growls and half valves before ending with a stratospheric final tag.