Charlotte Performing Arts Center Brings Latin Jazz to Life

CHARLOTTE, NC (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — At the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in Uptown Charlotte, the beat is contagious.

Music Director Julio Jeri and Instructor Johnny Conga are committed to helping keep a vibrant musical genre alive: Latin Jazz.

“We also try to culturally learn something that doesn’t exist here,” says Jeri, who is also a brass instructor.

“We transmit the heritage of music; history and culture,” said Johnny Conga.

The JazzArts Charlotte association has launched the free musical workshop for 7and up to 12and graders to promote and preserve Latin jazz.

“The Latin genre is combined with jazz and put into a big band setting,” Jeri explained.

“Wow from the start, okay,” he told students in a recent session.

The goal of Nuestro Tiempo Latino Jazz Youth Ensemble is to celebrate diversity through the prism of music. This broadens the horizons of promising young musicians.

“You really get a new angle,” said saxophonist Ricardo Forges. “For example, if you only played jazz all the time, you would never really think about certain rhythms and different aspects of a similar harmony.”

“I think it’s important because you really have to expand your variety in your music,” said saxophonist Victoria Catu.

“But it’s about feeling the beat,” says Jeri. “And how to communicate what they want to say; frustration, anger, whatever… happiness… through their own instruments.

At the end of the 12-week program, they will get a taste of the rich history of Latin Jazz. The hope is that for some it’s a launching pad.

It excites me because I see it living through these kids,” Conga said. “I hope these kids really engage in creating their own Latin jazz music.”

“As a Hispanic person, a lot of these sounds are already in my ear. I’m happy to see a lot of other kids discovering these sounds,” says saxophonist Gustavo Cruz.

“When you play all types of music, you can be more versatile,” Forges told us.

Now add one more tool to their musical toolbox.

Ada J. Kenney