The Dominican Jazz Project

Background Behind the Project

Jazzomania Jazz Festival 2017, Palacio de Bellas Artes,
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Photo by Mary Lide Parker, Endeavors Magazine

The Dominican Jazz Project began when Dominican born jazz artist, Guillo Carias, invited American jazz pianist, Stephen Anderson, to perform with him and local players for the 2014 Jazzomania Jazz Festival in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, that was hosted by the Quisqueya 96.1 FM jazz radio program.  The concert and associated clinic went beautifully, and the drummer, Guy Frómeta, invited Anderson to return to Santo Domingo to perform with him in his group for the Casa de Teatro Jazz Festival a few months later.  It was there that Anderson met Sandy Gabriel, tenor saxophonist.  Their collective friendship grew further with that experience, and following the festival, they agreed to record together.

What intrigued Anderson when he visited the Dominican Republic is that while Dominican musicians are very much at home playing Afro-Cuban/clave-based music, their traditional music also has a variety of other lesser known grooves that are not commonly played in Latin jazz today outside of the Dominican Republic.  And while the Dominican piano tumbao patterns sound similar to Cuban montuno patterns, they are constructed differently harmonically and rhythmically.  Anderson was also surprised that these Dominican were so interested in modern American jazz, and that Sandy Gabriel’s compositions, in some ways, were very similar to the aesthetic that he had been developing in the Stephen Anderson Trio recordings in recent years.  Sandy is an entirely self-taught saxophonist, having no formal training.  When asked how he learned to play so well, Sandy relayed that he learned from transcribing Michael Brecker solos, responding affirmably, “He was the best.” 
After returning home, Anderson spent several months deeply researching Dominican music, transcribing various piano tumbao patterns, as well as other traditional grooves, like the Mangulina, Pambiche, Ga-Ga, and the Palo.  Based on these and other grooves, he composed five new charts for the project, and Sandy Gabriel, Guillo Carias, and Carlos Luis contributed the other six compositions found on the recording.   
SANDY GABRIEL is a music producer, composer, arranger, saxophonist, and winner of the National Music Award 2003, Jazz Line. He began studying music at age 18, with his father, the Dominican saxophonist, Socrates Gabriel, director of the famous merengue band The Combo Candela, representing the Cibao in the 70s. He has studied with Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, and Paquito d’ Rivera.

In 1992, Gabriel began his own group, Puerto Plata Jazz Ensemble, who created their own style and original pieces in the style of fusion, funk and Latin jazz, and he has performed extensively as a guest soloist with International jazz artists such as Arturo Sandoval, Giovanny Hidalgo, Humberto Ramirez, Paquito D ‘Rivera, Michel Camilo, Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez, Nestor Torres, Dave Valentine, Spyro Gyra, Ivan Lins Julio Iglesias, Juan Luis Guerra, Chichi Peralta, Pavel Nuñez, Roselyn Sanchez, Emmanuel, Victor victor, Maridalia Hernandez, Milly Quezada, Olga Tanon, Elvis Crespo, Manuel Tejada, Jorge Taveras, Pengbian Sang, Chichi Peralta, Project Big Band Nuñez 2008, José Feliciano 2008, Hermanos Rosario 2005, Los Toros Band, Casandra Awards 2008, John Patitucci, Alex Acuña and Ed Simmons.

GUY FRÓMETA was born in 1965, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At the age of five years old, he began playing the drums. His interest in music is a family tradition, being the nephew of Billo Frómeta, the Dominican orchestra director who settled in Venezuela. Guy studied with the teachers Joel Rosenblatt, Zach Danziger and Sam Ulano.
In 1983, Luis Dias introduced Guy to Transporte Urbano, a musical group that he remained connected with. During the same time period in the 1980s, he worked with the group OFS of Juan Francisco de Ordoñez and was also the drummer of artists such as Sonia Silvestre and Patricia Pereyra, among others. Guy spent some time living in New York, where he performed and has since returned to Santo Domingo.

Guy Frómeta developed a unique style infused by the culture of New York, influenced by an eclectic mixture of elements from rock and Latin jazz. He has collaborated with musicians such as Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Paquito de Rivera, Victor Victor, Leni Stern, Chichi Peralta, JLS and the 440 Group of multi Grammy recipient, Juan Luis Guerra, among others.

GUILLO CARIAS started musical studies with his father, who was also a pianist. He continued his musical studies at the Music Conservatory of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and later graduated from the University of Chicago Conservatory Extension as an orchestra arranger. In 1964 he moved to Puerto Rico and studied at the Puerto Rico Music Conservatory, University of Rio Piedras, with principal trumpet player for the New York Symphony Orchestra Maestro Harry Glantz, and trumpet player for the New York Metropolitan Orchestra Jack Holland.
Carias served as Assistant Principal Trumpet, for the Dominican National Symphony Orchestra from 1974-91, and in 1985 he served as the first conductor of first Jazz Symphonic Orchestra in the Dominican Republic. Carias has ten published recording with as a band leader, has received won first place as Musical Director in the International Song and Voice Festival of Puerto Rico, and has been recognized by the Direccion General de Bellas Artes for contributions to the music of the Dominican Republic. He has performed with many international artists, including Sammy Davis Jr., Caroll Chaney, Phillys Diller, The Soul Train Dancers, Dave Brubeck, Bob James, and many others.
 
CARLOS LUIS was born in Havana, Cuba, in September 1960. While attending high school student he began to perform in music festivals. His father gave him his first guitar with which begins to be accompanied while it is interested in literature. Luis served in the military where he met several artists, including Silvio Rodriguez, Noel Nicola, Amaury Pérez and a group of writers, painters, artisans, actors, etc.. Through his connection with Silvio, Luis later met singer, Miriam Ramos, and at that point he became totally dedicated to his craft as a singer, song writer, and guitarist. Eventually, Luis moved to the Dominican Republic and has since been performing and recording—including CDs After Love and Revelations.
 
JEFFRY ECKELS is in high demand as a bassist and has substantial performing credits. Eckels pursued the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in music from the University of North Texas where he performed with the renowned 1 O’clock Lab Band and has served as adjunct jazz bass faculty. He received his Master of Arts in double bass performance from the University of Wisconsin and his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was the head of the Bass and Ear Training Department at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. Jeff has performed extensively around the country as a bassist for numerous jazz festivals and recording dates, as well as with symphony orchestras in Madison, Wisconsin, and Dubuque, Iowa. He also served as principal bassist for Public Radio International’s radio show Michael Felman’s “Whad’Ya Know?” as a guest soloist at the Aspen Music Festival; and in 2005 performed with singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler for the Oscar Award-winning song “Al Otro Lado Del Rio” from The Motorcycle Diaries. Eckels later served as Assistant Professor of Double Bass at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Eckels has recorded and toured with the Stephen Anderson Trio and has appeared on both of the Summit Records releases—Believe (2013) Nation Degeneration (2010) and Forget Not (2008).
 
STEPHEN ANDERSON , is a critically acclaimed composer and pianist whose music has been published on fourteen compact discs through Summit, Albany, Nagel Heyer Records, and other labels.  Four of Anderson’s recordings have appeared on the Grammy® Awards ballots representing Summit Records—Nation Degeneration (53rd), Believe (56th), 360˚ Jazz Initiative, Distracted Society (58th), and The Dominican Jazz Project (59th).  The Dominican Jazz Project similarly represented the label at the 17th Annual Latin Grammy® Awards in the categories of “Best New Artist” and “Best Jazz CD.” Both the Stephen Anderson Trio Nation Degeneration and Forget Not CDs received 4½ stars (out of 5) from the All Music Guide, and Forget Not was nominated best jazz “Debut CD” (3rd Annual Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll 2008).  Anderson was pianist with the Lynn Seaton Trio (2000-03), the North Texas One O’clock Lab Band (Lab 2000-01), was winner of the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival piano competition (1997), and keyboardist for gold-recording country artist, Kevin Sharp (1996-97). 

As a composer, his works have been performed by ensembles throughout the United States, including the West Point Military Academy Band, Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Montclair State Wind Symphony, Crested Butte Chamber Orchestra, the MIT Concert Band and many others, and at such venues as the College Band Directors National Association, the International Tuba Euphonium Association, and the Australian Trumpet Guild.  Awards include two commissions from the Barlow Endowment (2005, 2010), finalist, West Point Jazz Knights Composers Forum competition (2011), Chapman Family Foundation Teaching Award (2014), Junior Faculty Development Award-UNC (2008), United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro, the UNC Research Council, the “Village Pride, Hometown Hero Award” WCHL Chapel Hill Radio (2008), Endeavors magazine features (2013, 2008), and reviews in All About Jazz, Jazz Times, All Music Guide, and PAS.  Dr. Anderson is Professor of Composition and Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina and is Director of the UNC Summer Jazz Workshop.  
    
JUAN ÁLAMO  is an internationally known performer, composer, and educator. Álamo has presented solo recitals at universities and percussion and jazz festivals throughout the United States, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Europe. He has recorded and shared the stage performing in collaboration with renowned artists such as Keiko Abe, Ney Rosauro, Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval, Dave Samuels, Michael Spiro, Ted Piltzecker and famous conductors such as Sergiu Comissiona and Krzyszt Penderecki. Álamo has also authored two keyboard percussion books: “Milt Jackson: Transcribed Solos of the Master” and “Four Mallet Music for the Modern Marimba Player”. He has also recoded two solo marimba albums: Remembrance (2007) and Marimjazzia (2014). Álamo is Assistant Professor at UNC Chapel Hill and an artist-clinician for Encore Mallets Inc., Yamaha and Meinl percussion.
 
DAVID ALMENGOD   was born (1966) and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  From a very early age he began his percussion studies right in the center of his "barrio" and later he entered the National School of Arts (Escuela De Bellas Artes) where he started investigating the native Dominican rhythms and all his equals natives propositions from Brasil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Africa.  In the late 80's-90's he began to heavily perform jazz, fusion and latin music with various groups, including Irka & Mateo and the Tony Vicioso Group.  He has recorded, played, and/or toured with Juan Luis Guerra, Xiomara Fortuna, Stomp, Ruben Blades, Franco De Vita, Arturo Sandoval, Giovanni Hidalgo, Cuero, Madera & Metal, El Prodigio, Sistema Temperado, Sandy Gabriel, Manuel Tejada among others, and he had led his group, Maracande, for several years.  David has performed in dozens of jazz festivals around the world, including festivals in Moscow, Paris, Montreal, Mexico, Spain, Peru, Colombia.  Aside from his work as a percussionist, he remains active producing music for films and jingles, and he is an active educator in his own percussion school.

About the Musicians