Arturo Sandoval Brings Fire To The Chicago Jazz Orchestra

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Can an aggressive Chicago jazz group transform itself into a radiant Afro-Cuban jazz band at the drop of a downbeat?

Apparently so, if it's being led by the volatile Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

Not that Sandoval was officially conducting the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, which sold out Northwestern University's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Saturday evening. But once Sandoval took to the stage, the band became his, CJO conductor and artistic director Jeff Lindberg generally stepping to the side as if a tornado had swept into the house.

Whether firing volleys into the stratosphere or unspooling long, luscious melody lines, trumpeter Sandoval tends to dominate any room he's in. Add to this Sandoval's exuberant stage patter, warmly romantic pianism, robust timbales playing and gleefully maniacal singing (a cross between James Moody's scat and Clark Terry's “mumbles"), and you have an artist who instantly raises the emotional temperature of any concert hall he's working.

He may not offer comparable virtuosity in all these musical endeavors – Sandoval's trumpet work towers over all the rest – but the man barely can contain all the music rushing out of him. If in earlier years this rendered his performances somewhat overblown and exhibitionistic, by now—at age 62—Sandoval has mellowed enough to be just this side of frantic.

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