Monday, May 26, 2008

"Un Homenaje para Angá" at The Jazz Gallety, NYC

Dedicated to Miguel "Angá" Díaz (1961 - 2006):
Un Homenaje Para Angá

The Jazz Gallery joins "Make Music New York" on Saturday, June 21st, 2008 from 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM with a major open-air concert, culminating a series of events held earlier in the week dedicated to Miguel Angá Diaz (1961 - 2006): Un Homenaje Para Angá.

Performances earlier in the week include
Sunday, June 15th: Pedro Martinez's ensemble "Iborru", featuring Dafnis Prieto on drums. Commemorating what would have been Angá's 47th birthday.

Thursday, June 19th: Flor Urrutia's "Timba Jazz Para Angá"

Friday, June 20th: Yosvany Terry's "Percussion Ensemble"

Saturday, June 21st's open-air concert on Dominick Street, adjacent to The Jazz Gallery will feature a series of performances by
Kwaku Martin Obeng -- An African Preamble
Gema y Pavel -- An Abundance of Folkloric Traditions
Yosvany Terry -- Afro-Cuban Roots Ensemble
Roy Hargrove -- Crisol, Explorations in Jazz Cubano

The closing track on Afreecanos, pianist Omar Sosa's 2008 recording for Otá Records, is titled "Why Angá?" It's a question many music lovers are still asking in the wake of the tragic and untimely death of Cuban percussion master Miguel "Angá" Díaz. Angá was felled by a heart attack at the age of 45 on August 12, 2006. But the legacy of his extraordinary conga playing and forward-thinking musical conception will live on forever.

For us at the Jazz Gallery, the question "Why Angá?" has another meaning as well. Recent days have also seen the passing of such Afro-Cuban music legends as Tata Güines, Carlos "Patato" Valdez and Ray Barretto. Yet between June 15th and June 21st, we will honor the far younger Angá Díaz with a special series of concerts we call "Un Homenaje Para Angá". The concert on the afternoon of June 21st will be held under the joint banner of the Gallery and Make Music New York, the annual citywide outdoor music festival.

Again, "Why Angá?"

Because Angá played here at the Jazz Gallery during his first-ever visit to the U.S. Because he enjoyed close friendships and associations with artists central to the Jazz Gallery's mission, including Chucho Valdés, Steve Coleman, Roy Hargrove and Dafnis Prieto (Prieto dedicates his latest release, Taking the Soul for a Walk, to Angá's memory). But most important, because Angá embodied the philosophy we have championed from the moment we opened our doors as a performance venue: that jazz is an international language, youthful in spirit, progressive in outlook, conversant not only with the American jazz heritage but an array of folkloric traditions from around the globe. The performers in our special homage - Pedro Martinez (June 15th), Flor Urrutia (June 19th), Yosvany Terry (June 20th) and Roy Hargrove and many others (June 21st) - share Angá's commitments to musical excellence and global fellowship, and they'll join us in hailing Angá's work as a shining example for present and future generations.

Miguel Aurelio "Angá" Díaz Zayas occupied a unique place in the lineage of Afro-Cuban music. He was deeply invested in the traditional roots and communal functions of the art, but equally interested in pushing it into new, pan-stylistic territory - including but not limited to jazz. "It's astounding how many sonic colors you hear in [Angá's] work," Omar Sosa told the Los Angeles Times. "He understood the entire language of Afro-Cuban percussion."

Born in 1961 in the village of San Juan de Martinez, Díaz took the nickname "Angá" from his saxophone-playing father. As a child he absorbed the sound of rumba, joining fellow villagers in the public square every Sunday for music-making and dancing. He began studying congas with the local rumba player Titino, though his professional career got off the ground when he moved to Havana, attended the Cuban School of Arts and joined the pathbreaking group Opus 13.

Angá's mentor in Havana was the great conguero Tata Güines (1930-2008), himself a direct link to Chano Pozo, Arsenio Rodriguez and other Afro-Cuban giants. "Tata's way of thinking, his ability to play Latin jazz, jazz, funk - that's the main thing he gave me," Angá said. "He could play anything because he was open." On YouTube there are clips of Angá and Tata Güines performing together, and the special bond between the two is palpable. Tata's example served the young Angá well, for he went on to join Chucho Valdés for nine years in the pioneering ensemble Irakere.

Angá also discovered a new musical language playing with M-Base innovator and alto saxophonist Steve Coleman (hear 1999's Sonic Language of Myth). He went on to share Grammy-winning success for Habana, the breakthrough 1997 album by Roy Hargrove's Afro-Cuban group Crisol. But even as Angá joined forces with leading American jazz artists, he remained close to his roots, working with Juan de Marcos González in the Afro-Cuban All Stars; with Orlando "Cachaito" López on the 2001 album Cachaito; and with Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, Omara Portuondo and other members of the renowned Buena Vista Social Club. One can also hear Angá's brilliance on Live à FIP, the fiery 2006 quintet album by Omar Sosa, recorded in France just over a year before Angá's death.

Alluding to Angá's spectacular five-drum technique, Afro-Latin music expert Paul de Castro has said: "[Angá] could do things [on congas] that could only be dreamed of before he came on the scene." But on Echu Mingua, Angá's 2006 album for World Circuit, his first and last disc as a bandleader, we hear more than just chops. We hear the culmination of Angá's journey - his goal, as he put it, of "mixing percussion with everything that exists, everything musical." From danzón and flamenco to the instrumental timbres of Mali; from Coltrane and Monk to the sound world of DJs, beat programmers and hip-hoppers, Echu Mingua is Angá's lasting testimony, a tribute to his ancestors and mentors and an inspirational text for generations yet to come.

Please join us at The Jazz Gallery, during the annual Make Music New York festivities, as Kwaku Martin Oben, Gema y Pavel, Yosvany Terry and Roy Hargrove honor Angá's vibrant musical and personal spirit with "Un Homenaje Para Angá".
Make Music New York is a new live, free musical celebration across the city that took place for the first time on June 21, 2007. On that day, public space throughout the five boroughs - sidewalks, parks, community gardens, and more - became impromptu musical stages and dance floors and social meeting points. The event is based on France's Fete de la Musique, which has been a great success for 25 years. Since it was inaugurated, the festival has become an international phenomenon, celebrated on the same day in more than 300 cities in 108 countries, including Germany, Italy, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Australia, Vietnam, Congo, Cameroon, Togo, Colombia, Chile, Mongolia and Japan.

The Jazz Gallery is proud to take part in this fun but also meaningful celebration, which highlights the arts' centrality to human societies around the globe.

The Jazz Gallery is a New York State-accredited cultural center that has long sought to highlight the significance and varied dimensions of Afro-Cuban musical traditions, and their ongoing relationship to jazz. For more information visit
The Jazz Gallery is located at 290 Hudson Street (below Spring), in lower Manhattan and can be reached by the IRT #1 or 9 to
Houston Street or the IND C or E trains to Spring Street.

General admission - $12.00 - 30.00; $10.00 for The Jazz Gallery members. Reservations are recommended. 212-242-1063

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