Justo Almario Quartet kicks off Friday jazz series

FILLED WITH JOY-Almario (left) pumps up the crowd while Walter Rodriguez drums away during the First Friday Jazz Series on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in the S2 Recital hall.

By Vivian Ramirez

The First Friday Jazz Series kicked off the new semester with a performance by the Justo Almario Quartet in the S2 Recital Hall on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012.

The group is composed of bassist John Pena, guitarist Ramon Stagnaro, drummer Walter Rodriguez, and features saxophonist Justo Almario.

Almario is a well-known musician in the industry who has shared the stage with Tito Puente, Charles Mingus, and Queen Latifah, in addition to working on the “Happy Feet” motion picture soundtrack.

The quartet opened the concert with the popular jazz standard “Autumn Leaves.” Almario’s version of the tune was more upbeat than the original and featured a saxophone and electric guitar solo.

Competing for the most popular tune of the night was an original composition by Almario titled “Seventh Avenue.”

The piece was written in the complex meter of 14/8, yet it was easy for the audience to clap along to. Almario came up with the idea of using 14/8 meter during his youth. He was easing into his music education and wanted to do something more abstract than the standard 4/4 meter.

Equally impressive was Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” which featured a cajon solo by Rodriguez.

The cajon is a wooden box-shaped percussion instrument native to South America. It produces different pitches, depending on the area where it is struck.

The sound from the cajon, accompanied with snippets of bass and guitar, echoed off the back walls of the recital hall, producing the sensation of being inside a box. It was a wonderful solo and even felt a little sad.

Rodriguez also attached a thin chain of beads to one of his drum set cymbals, creating a sizzle effect.

He would sometimes tap the cymbal with his finger while playing the cajon or bongo, blending the sounds.

The quartet performed other tunes such as Rafael Hernandez’s “Lamento Borincano,” and Almario’s original composition “Born to Love.”

Almario is on the East Los Angeles College advisory board of commercial music and constantly works on community outreach.

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