West Side Story Reimagined
Drummer and bandleader Sanabria leads his 21 piece big band in a joyous celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s classic musical. Recorded in performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2017, a little more than 60 years after “West Side Story” premiered and during of centennial of Bernstein, the musical also has a personal connection to Sanabria given his growing up in a gang-filled Bronx.
This backdrop would be of little importance if the big band rearrangement of Bernstein’s marvelous music. There are plenty of superb soloists present including Christopher Washburne’s trombone and Andrew Gould’s alto sax on “America,” but the real stars are the arrangers including Jeff Lederer on this as well as Niko Siebold on “Jet Song.” The writing often has the sections playing against each other as well as restating the musical themes and tempo shifts whether having a segment evoking a rollicking jump blues followed one sounding like a marching band. This recording is like listening to a jubilant musical carousel.
The delight of the rendition of “Gee, Officer Krupke,” the lyricism of Matt Wong’s arrangement of “Tonight,” and the kaleidoscope of moods provided the arrangement by Takao Heisho for “The Rumble/ Rumba,” are some further examples of the enthralling performances here. This is a terrific release. Sanabria and the Multiverse Big Band are performing this music on tour, including a performance at the Kennedy Center next season.
The addition of Latin rhythmic grooves, the sheer exuberance of the stellar performance and Sanabria’s brief narrations introducing certain numbers incorporating lyrics or with respect to “America,” where he notes the realities of discrimination facing Puerto Rican’s and other immigrant/migrant communities. This includes the lack of adequate assistance to Puerto Rican after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. If the magnificent music was not sufficient reason to purchase this, part of ether proceeds will be used to help in the Puerto Rican recovery.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review has appeared in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379). Here is a video Bobby Sanabria and the Multiverse Big Band with special guest Candido performing "Manteca," at a benefit for Puerto Rico.