Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Angel Melendez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra



It goes against my better judgment to recommend any group that performs in tuxedos, as this big band helmed by trombonist and arranger Angel Melendez frequently does, but there's nothing stiff and formal about the superb debut album Melendez and company released on Latin Street Music last year. Chicago has produced surprisingly few credible Afro-Cuban dance orchestras over the years, but the dynamic 911 Mambo Orchestra is one of the finest I've heard this side of New York City; stocked with some of the best musicians in town, including jazzers like trumpeter Tito Carrillo and alto saxophonist Pat Mallinger, it delivers punchy, vibrant readings of old favorites, some convincing originals composed in the classic mode . . . and a merengue version of "Havah Nagilah." For the most part they don't try anything fancy or particularly progressive, but they play with killer precision and vigor, interjecting concise, energizing solos. This show, which is part of Chicago SummerDance, is preceded by dance lessons with Lisa "La Boriqua" at 6 PM. Fri 7/8, 7:30 PM, Spirit of Music Garden, 601 S. Michigan, 312-742-4007. Free. All ages.

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