* Who: Chris Washburne and the SYOTOS Band
* When: 8 p.m. Saturday
* Where: Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre, Arlington
Trombonist Chris Washburne has worked on Grammy Award-winning and nominated projects with Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente, but one of his greatest triumphs was medical as well as musical.
Named "One of the best trombonists in Salsa," by The New York Times, Washburne was diagnosed with nerve cancer 10 years ago. There was an operation that could help, but he was told there was only a 50-50 chance of surviving it and that, even if he lived, he'd never be able to perform again. Washburne insisted on playing one last gig before entering the hospital and reportedly told his band mates, "See you on the other side." He survived, obviously, but was left with severe nerve loss and damage to one side of his face. Still, he managed to re-master his instrument and reclaim his career. The SYOTOS band was born.
Over the past seven years, Washburne and SYOTOS (see you on the other side, but you can call it "sigh-yo-tose") became one of New York City's hottest Latin-jazz ensembles by hosting weekly jam sessions at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. The shows have been a sort of workshop, bringing together players to explore Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian and various other jazz styles. The ensemble's 1999 debut release, "Nuyorican Nights," earned praise from a variety of critical outlets, including Down Beat ("Booty-shaking heat"), Jazziz ("a wealth of improvisational and rhythmic nuances"), and the Village Voice ("An evocative, at times almost dreamily inventive album").
In addition to touring the world with various groups, Washburne works as a studio musician (for David Byrne, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra and Bang on a Can Allstars, among others), holds a teaching position in the jazz department at the New School for Social Research and is an assistant professor at Columbia University. He was also a sideman with Tito Puente's orchestra in its later years and is featured on Puente's final recordings. SYOTOS's most recent album, "The Other Side (El Otro Lado)," includes some original Washburne compositions and Puente songs, all dedicated to the master's memory.
This concert will no doubt reflect some of that same spirit and includes a guest appearance by percussionist Bobby Sanabria. A historian as well as musician, Sanabria was involved with the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit "Latin Jazz: La Combinacion Perfecta." His Grammy-nominated big band CD, "Live & in Clave!!!," includes "Nuyorican Son," a track written by and featuring Washburne on claves, guataca, vocals and trombone.
Saturday's event marks the first of a series, co-sponsored by the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division with the Latin American Folk Institute (LAFI), to highlight Latin-jazz fusion. The Rosslyn Spectrum Latin Jazz Concert Series continues with mambo king Orlando Marin & his Orchestra next month, and Orquesta Novel with special guest Eddie Drennon in March.
-- Marianne Meyer
The Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre is in the Rosslyn Plaza Building, 1611 North Kent St., Arlington (next to the Newseum's old location), two blocks from the Rosslyn stop on the Orange and Blue Metro lines. There is free parking in the garage entered from the rear of the building on Arlington Ridge Road. Tickets are $28 and available at www.tickets.com (service charges apply), by phone at 703-218-6500, at all Olsson's Books and Records stores and select Coconuts and Record Town stores. For more information, call 703-228-1850 or visit www.arlingtonarts.org.
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