On Monday, June 19th, the Marimjazzia Latin Jazz Quartet played Hill Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina as part of UNC’s Summer Jazz Workshop.
The Quartet is led by a master Jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist, Juan Alamo. Also playing in with the quartet on the piano was the leader of the Jazz Workshop, Stephen Anderson. The Quartet consisted of the marimba, piano, drums, bongos and upright bass. It was not a typical Jazz Quintet, it did not include a Brass instrument. This is a bit unorthodox but Alamo is an unorthodox talent.
Much like any other band, the leader of the group stands in the center in front of the rest of the members. Most of the time they are behind a microphone, breaking the norm, Alamo led the band from behind his marimba. Leading this quartet in not just musicianship but also in showmanship.
Right down to the way he held the mallets to create dulcet tones that filled the Hill Hall with perfected Latin Jazz. He held two mallets in each hand and they look like they were extensions of his hands playing his way up and down the marimba. Making every note look effortless. He completely stole the show with his playing. He was a leader throughout, even when he stepped away from his marimba. As he started playing a wooden percussion instrument still leading the quartet and keeping the time.
The setlist mainly consisted of jazz composed by the late great, Bobby Hutcherson.The band played through the highlights of his catalog with songs like “I Wanna Stand over There“, “Wrong or Right“, and “Til Then“.
The night was finished off with two original compositions of Alamo. One being “One for Bobby.” This Song even had a special accompaniment from two little Latin American girl’s that Alamo stated where “They are the closest thing I have to family”. The night was complete and Alamo made sure to leave the audience with a touching finish. Dripping with sweat, he had given his all to the performance and the audience rewarded him with a standing ovation.