VSO POPS: Mambo Kings

Dates and Venue 11 and 12 April 2008 @ 8 pm | The Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Jeff Tyzik Entertainers Mambo Kings

Reviewer Ed Farolan

After the last number, Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" (arr. Delaney), the Vancouver audience clamoured for more. This last number woke them up after being coached by Jeff Tyzik to participate by shouting "uu" when he signaled the cue.

Naturally, if this were a Spanish audience, they would do more than shout "uu"; they would most probably be dancing in the aisles as the Mambo Kings performed their salsa numbers. Before doing this number, he said he surprised himself that a symphony orchestra could do this piece.

Tyzik did an interesting combination with numbers from Spanish classics such as Lecuona's "Andalucia" and Piazzola's "Fuga y Misterioso" and "Milonga del Angel," with the VSO, and then coming in with the original compositions and arrangements of Mambo Kings leader and pianist Dick Delaney from pop classics such as Gershwin's "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, and Rodgers andHammerstein's "Favourite Things" from The Sound of Music.

But the mambo classics "El cumanchero" and "Ran Kan Kan" were also given a special twist, especially with the command performance of saxophonist/flutist John Viavattine. Two numbers I enjoyed listening to was his interpretation of Lennon and Mccartney's "Day Tripper" and Brubeck's "Blue Mambo." His original compositions "Marinera" and "Melodia" were just fabulous.

Delaney narrated an anecdote about how "Marinera" was born: In Lima, where he hails from, he remembered his mother and his spinster aunts dancing to this folk music, and he said it was etched in his memory until later in his life, he finally composed it.

Formed in 1995 by Delaney (piano), and based in Rochester, New York, the Mambo Kings performed in Vancouver seven years ago. The other members of this five-man ensemble are percussionists Freddy Colon (drums, timbales, bongos) and David Antonetti (congas); bassist Hector Diaz; and saxophonist John Viavattine.

This was indeed a night to remember!

© 2008 Ed Farolan