Saturday night's Latin music festival at Carter Barron Amphitheatre had its share of problems. For starters, Pepe Gonzalez and his capable fusion band walked offstage in the middle of their set, understandably upset because of the poor sound quality. The group eventually returned, but Gonzalez's under-amplified acoustic bass and a constant electronic hum undermined most of its performance.
Jazz bassist Eddie Gomez then led a group of fusion all-stars under far better conditions. His crisp, resonant tone could be heard, either alone, during elegantly phrased improvisations, or when deftly underpinning spirited solos by flutist Jeremy Steig and saxophonist Dick Oatts. But while the band mixed fashionable grooves with more challenging material, it seldom rose above all the radio-charted competition.
It took Tania Maria and her explosive energy to set things right. Some of her choices may have been a bit odd -- exhuming the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," for example -- but the results were never less than original. As always, her piano rang out in hugely percussive and festive tones, and she was forever playing with the tempo and mood of a piece, both as an instrumentalist and as one of the very best scat singers around. Her aim, more often than not, was to orchestrate a sweeping emotional release for the crowd. The standing ovation she received at the end of the night was rousing testimony to her success.