Brassy ululations from trumpets, plaintive arabesques from guitars and a steady tattoo of percussion power -- not to mention star power from Gloria Estefan, Jos Feliciano, Sheila E. and Edward James Olmos -- underscore a tribute to Latin-American musical culture airing Wednesday at 9 p.m. on PBS.
"The Kennedy Center Presents: The Americanos Concert," performed in July, has been edited to 90 minutes.
Actor-director Olmos, 52, conceived the concert as part of a broader multi-media campaign to highlight the contributions of Latinos in American society, called the Americanos Project. The undertaking includes a book, a documentary film scheduled to air on HBO next May and a traveling exhibition of photographs.
Olmos, an Academy Award-nominated actor ("Stand and Deliver"), said his mission with this concert is to "encompass all of America in one fell swoop.
"America is a universal word," he added. "It's an inclusive word. You can make it exclusive, but it's an all-encompassing word."
Differences among the Latin-American cultural roots are delineated and then bridged in the concert, whose intermittent, often-rhyming script Olmos narrates.
Olmos begins the performance with, "American, so says the North. The South, Americano. Two names, two sides. A single vowel keeps brother from hermano. But long before the spacious skies, far from the waves of grain, the mist of conflict sprays its kiss before the mighty rain."
At times, the script sounds like a lush travelogue: "Santo Domingo! Where the humidity has less to do with the climate than with the warm sensuality. Where the swaying palms and ocean breeze and fertile crimson soil blend effortlessly with old-world ingredients to form a new musical elixir."
But the emphasis is on the music, which is performed with overwhelming gusto by a first-rate lineup. At one point, clarinetist-alto saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera is having such a good time playing a samba -- he hops around onstage animatedly -- he appears about to jump out of his shoes. When he finishes his songs, the crowd, which includes Gen. Colin Powell, screams with pleasure. The camera captures one fellow mouthing, "Wow!"
Other highlights include the legendary Cuban bassist Israel Lopez, known as "Cachao," blissfully mugging as he performs an entrancing duet with Latin jazz flutist Nestor Torres, and a solid take of "Sabor a Mi" sung by Estefan and singer-guitarist Feliciano.
Timbales and conga player Sheila E., her father and brother play percussion between acts, and singer Juan Luis Guerra renders a respectable rendition of "Ojala Que Llueva Caf."
Olmos said he wanted people not to think of Latinos as one block group, but instead to see Asian Latinos, African Latinos and indigenous Latinos, to name a few.
"It's interesting to see what we do to ourselves," Olmos said, referring to such blending of bloods.
Suddenly, he gets in a groove, and the words come quickly. "We are the United States of America, and we're made of all nationalities of the planet," he said. "Yet 94 to 95 percent of all teaching is European-American studies. No Asian-American studies. No indigenous. Very little Latin American, and the studies we do don't show the strength of indigenous people.
"It's embarrassing," he added. "We don't understand the strength of roots."
Olmos also will help host the 13th Hispanic Heritage Awards airing Saturday at 7 p.m. on WRC. The honorees and their categories: opera singer Pl 4/5cido Domingo for arts; Antonia Hern 4/5ndez, president and general counsel of the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, for leadership; former Cincinnati Bengal Anthony Muoz for sports; Tina Ramrez, founder of Ballet Hispanico, for education; and author and poet Gary Soto for literature.
More information about the Americanos Project can be found at www.americanosproject.com.