Arturo Sandoval never fails to impress and dazzle with his technical virtuosity, precision and energy. Sure enough, his trumpet pyrotechnics, keyboard effects, infectious Afro-Cuban rhythms and exuberance were in plentiful supply Wednesday before a audience of 766 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.
At age 68, he still can blow the roof off the place with his sheer power, even though his solo trumpet excursions came in relatively brief bursts. The concert began soulfully, as Sandoval squeezed blue notes from his horn and even quoted “Blue Monk.” He urged — no, ordered — the audience to participate in the refrain of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” as he joined them on a Harmon-muted trumpet, a la Miles Davis.
Switching from flugelhorn to trumpet, Sandoval soared through a blazing-fast rendition of “Koko,” a Charlie Parker tune based on the changes of “Cherokee,” on which he also exhibited some astounding scat-singing passages. Sandoval introduced the next tune on Jew’s harp (or jaw harp) that segued into a reggae jam with the rest of the six-piece band. To end the first half of the concert, he walked to the piano and performed a beautiful rendition of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” with bassist John Belzaguy and drummer Johnny Friday.
The second half featured an excellent take on Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring,” beginning as a ballad and going up-tempo for a double-time trumpet foray.
But like his performance at the 2016 Jazz in June opener, the 90-minute concert veered wildly between pure performance and stage antics. The entertainer told stories, left the stage to bring 15 students to the front of the hall, walked across the front of the stage singing Charlie Chaplin’s ballad “Smile,” and railed against the country’s news media and “that crazy guy in Korea.”
As always, Sandoval paid tribute to his late mentor and idol, Dizzy Gillespie. The final piece of the evening was Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.” Again he displayed the technique that made Dizzy so famous.