When: Thu., June 18, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sat., June 20, 8 & 10 p.m. 2015
DOMINICAN JAZZ PROJECT
THURSDAY, JUNE 18/SATURDAY, JUNE 20
KENAN MUSIC BUILDING, CHAPEL HILL/BEYU CAFFE, DURHAM—Stephen Anderson works as a classically trained composer, a jazz professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and a gigging salsa pianist. But unless he's adding a new skill to that repertoire, he's not satisfied. After making four albums of straight-ahead jazz, he's poised to try something else: The Dominican Jazz Project, a cross-continental collaboration gearing up for a series of concerts and recording sessions this week in North Carolina.
The project started serendipitously, with a plan to perform in the Dominican Republic for International Jazz Day 2014. Guillo Carias—a Dominican jazz trumpeter and bandleader since the 1960s, who now lives in Cary—invited Anderson to join him on the Santo Domingo gig. There, he met drummer Guy Frómeta and saxophonist Sandy Gabriel, players with long resumes in Dominican popular music and a voracious hunger for North American jazz.
"They were like workhorses," Anderson says. "They just kept wanting to rehearse."
Frómeta is the longtime drummer for bachata and pop superstar Juan Luis Guerra and a nephew of the 1930s orchestra leader Billo Frómeta. He and Anderson hit it off so much that Frómeta invited Anderson to Santo Domingo a few months later to play at the city's prestigious jazz haven, Casa de Teatro.
"I went back and it just sealed the friendship," says Anderson.
It sealed their working relationship, too.
"After that, we started talking about merging Dominican rhythms in his [jazz] compositions, and we exchanged ideas, beats, melodies," says Frómeta. "We realized it was something that must be recorded."
Anderson will host the Dominicans for a series of concerts this week before they all hit the Kernersville studio Fidelitorium to preserve the synergy on record.
"I'm very self-conscious about being a gringo doing this project," says Anderson. "I don't want to be an imposter. But when I call Guy, he says, 'Man, don't worry about it. I'm the Dominican part. You're the American jazz part. We're the fusion.'" Thursday, June, 18: 7 p.m., free, Kenan Music Building, 125 S. Columbia St., Chapel Hill, 919-962-1039, www.music.unc.edu. Saturday, June 20: 8 & 10 p.m., $12, 335 W. Main St., Durham, 919-683-1058, www.beyucaffe.com. —Sylvia Pfeiffenberger