Wayne Wallace and the Bay Area Latin Music Scene

Aug 8, 2013

Wayne Wallace is a trombonist, a five-time Grammy nominee, a respected proponent of African American-Latin music, and an accomplished arranger, educator, and composer.  His playing and recording credits are impressive, too:  Pete Escovedo, Santana, Tito Puente, Steve Turre,  Max Roach and more.  The San Francisco native took some time from his busy schedule last week to talk with me about his latest CD, Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin and an upcoming project.

About Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin:  "When I went about arranging and picking tunes and thinking about the personalities of the band members for this new record, I was really in that space:   what can I do to challenge us as musicians, and still make it accessible to anyone who hears it, not just the hard-core Latin jazz folks?  I felt we accomplished that on this record.  I think there are enough layers within the music that anyone can go deeper into it upon the second or third listening, regardless of their musical background.  That would be my hope, if we can make projects that stand up to time and repeated listening, and there is some type of growth in it, then I think we've done a cool thing."

About the Bay Area Latin music scene:   The music of the Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican communities in New York came together under the label of "salsa."  For the mixed communities of the West Coast in Bay Area in the 1950s and 1960s, that music was inspiration.  "They emulated it, but of course, they put their own spin on it," says Wallace.

Soon to come from his own label, Patois Records, is a 2-CD set compilation of the Bay Area salsa sound called Salsa de la Bahia.  "It's a really interesting snapshot of, I would say, the last 15 years of what we've been doing here.  Pete Escovedo's on it, Benny Velarde, Orestes Vilato, John Santos... a lot of great musicians."  The CD release is connected to the making and release of the film The Last Mambo by Rita Hargrave, which explores the  world of salsa/Latin jazz in the San Francisco Bay area.  Salsa de la Bahia is, according to Wayne, "...not a companion to the film, but more of a primer, an introduction to all the members of the scene here who are in the video."

The Last Mambo is the first film to be produced by Patois Records.  "Doing the CD with the movie ties it all together, reaching out from an educational standpoint.  Making a CD these days is the easiest thing to do.  But to actually make an artistic statement is getting harder and harder to do.  I have to believe it's worthwhile to document things like the displacement of the people and the jazz scene from the Fillmore District, the loss of culture and community, just so that people know."   The whole project is entertaining, educational and aims to preserve a piece of history.  While sequencing Salsa de la Bahia, Wayne discovered another facet:  "It's just a great party record!  Even if you don't care about anything else, you can just put it on and dance!"

Listen for Wayne Wallace's Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin CD and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU's Mid Day Jazz!