Thursday, Feb. 28, 8 p.m.
Page Auditorium, Duke University
New York trombonist Jimmy Bosch is one of those rare artists who seem to do everything right. A proponent of the aggressive, urban salsa known as "salsa dura," Bosch's passion and dedication draw almost religious raves from fans. Critics have also hailed him as the second coming of Barry Rogers, the legendary trombonist with Eddie Palmieri's '60s dream band "La Perfecta."In addition to being an in-demand sideman who's played with Cachao, Ray Barretto and Marc Anthony, Bosch has recorded two descarga-style solo albums (Soneando Trombon and Salsa Dura, both on RykoLatino). Remarkably, neither disc is marred by any commercial compromises whatsoever. Bosch's revival of authentic salsa dura was brought home to the Page Auditorium audience in a spectacular and satisfying performance.
Despite the show's conflict with a Blue Devils hoops game, a nearly full hall of salsa fans embraced the dynamic Bosch and his energetic band, including a pair of professional dancers brought down to demonstrate the stylish New York mambo. Signs in the foyer that stated "No Dancing" went politely unheeded. Dancing couples peppered the aisles, and eventually Bosch, as a nod to local talent, welcomed some of the more flamboyant dancers to share the stage.
Famous for his ferocious energy and horn riffs called "moñas," Bosch pumped his small body at the knees, piston-like, as he delivered passionate solos. Bosch's autobiographical song lyrics address everyday situations and social issues with a frankness that makes him a role model to fans, who were treated to extended versions of their favorites, such as "La Cacharra," "Otra Oportunidad," "Cha Cha Gabriel" and "Siguo Cambiando." His unusual horn section--trombone, tenor sax, baritone and flugelhorn--keeps the instrumental mix in the low ranges with a maximum of tonal color. Add to that a rhythm section of bongos, congas (played traditionally on the floor), timbales, bass tumbao and keyboard montunos, and Bosch gets a large, feet-on-the-ground sound using a minimum of versatile players.
As sonero, the young Rey Bayona is undeniably the real thing, able to tackle improvisations with requisite spontaneity and grip listeners with the emotional seriousness of his storytelling. Members of Bosch's impressive rhythm and horn sections all had time to show off and stretch out in genres ranging from traditional Afro-Cuban forms to the hottest jazz. Bosch, a natural performer but far from a grandstander, seemed to be as comfortable sharing the spotlight as basking in it. He was also at ease with fans, signing CDs and autographs throughout the show's intermission.
The show, with over two hours of music, formed a well-choreographed journey, taking the audience through moments of animal excitement and spiritual intensity.
Bosch, seemingly effortlessly, creates not just a stage atmosphere but also a sense of community that bridges the gap between performer and audience. As a music business radical and an aesthetic traditionalist, he captures that elusive balance between nostalgia and keepin' it real, both for himself and for fans tired of the pretty faces and empty lyrics of slick commercial salsa.