Happily in the Groove

Arnaldo Acosta.

Arnaldo Acosta.

Just look at the picture. It’s a far cry from the usual jazz artist publicity image depicting the
macho musical philosopher or the steely sage of 64th-note solos or the über-hip conqueror of harmonic heights.

This picture of drummer Arnaldo Acosta is about sheer jubilation, about jumping for joy. Here’s a man who loves his work, and his work is bringing the groove to your ears, heart, and soul.

This Saturday, in the New Mexico Jazz Workshop’s final concert of the summer season, the
Arnaldo Acosta Quintet, featuring Aaron Lovato (sax), Phil Arnold (trombone, harmonica), Stu MacAskie (keys), and Colin Deuble (bass), will explore the happy grooves of soul jazz, with the
intention of spreading a feel-good vibe throughout the amphitheater. (Also appearing on the bill is the Pat Malone Quartet, with the guitarist joined by Kanoa Kaluhiwa on sax, Colin Deuble on bass, and Diego Arencon on drums.)

Follow your groove

In high demand since arriving in Albuquerque in 1996, Acosta has played every kind of music, backing Frank Leto, Stu MacAskie, Fat City, Sparx, Lorenzo Antonio, Doug Lawrence, Cathy McGill, and many others. He’s also played or toured with such international stars as guitarist Al Di Meola, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and bassist Mark Egan (formerly of the Pat Metheny Group). But this is the first time he’s assembled a group of his own for the long haul.

“I put a band together about nine years ago,” says the Dominican native. “It was something that I put together just to play some gigs. But this one is something that I intend to keep, to keep it going as my group continuously.”

A more conventional position.

Leading a group, he acknowledges, requires a lot more time and energy than the sideman’s role, but he’s happy for the challenge. “It is a lot of work, indeed. However, after you kind of get used to it, you can follow your own groove,” he says. “I always wanted to try it for years, watching the great leaders I’ve been with.”

The group is typically a quartet, but for this event, Acosta hired “a wonderful young, really good saxophone player, Aaron Lovato.” A music teacher by day, Lovato has been
playing with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and other groups, and he brings a thoughtful and soulful quality to the stage. Both MacAskie and Deuble are both well-known, well-respected core members of the New Mexico jazz scene. They are joined by relative newcomer Arnold. Acosta describes him as “a great trombone player,” but it’s clear that his harmonica chops, which will be featured in a ballad medley, really grabbed Acosta’s attention: “He
doesn’t think like a harmonica player. He thinks like a piano player. I never heard anybody play like him.”

Digging soul jazz

Acosta gravitated to the ’60s soul jazz genre, which incorporates elements of blues, soul, gospel, and R&B, because “it’s very rhythmically oriented,” he says. “It has a very strong groove. . . . And I kind of feel that’s my strong thing when it comes to drumming—to just play a groove.”

Acosta, of course, does so much more than “just play a groove.” With a background that is
informed by the folkloric music of his native country, as well as jazz and rock and roll, he brings a wide-ranging vocabulary to the drumset. He also brings a set of ears tuned to everything his colleagues on the bandstand are putting out. “He’s listening,” Frank Leto once told me. “That’s the final frontier as a musician, to be able to really listen to what other people are doing and
respond to it.”

Among the selections that the quintet will play are Bobby Timmons’ “This Here,” Cannonball Adderley’s “Jive Samba,” and “Down by the Riverside.” Whatever they play, it’s all but guaranteed to be a finger-popping, foot-tapping set that’ll put a smile on your face.

Pat Malone Quartet/Arnaldo Acosta Quintet
Saturday, August 9, 7:00 p.m.
Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater
2000 Mountain Rd. NW
$16/$14 for NMJW and museum members/seniors/students
For tickets, go to www.nmjazz.org

 

© 2014 Mel Minter. All rights reserved.

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