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Jazz Notes: The Barber Bros., back in town

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They were jazz sensations at Indiana University, those Barber Brothers. But after graduation, they pursued projects separately. Trombonist Roland Barber relocated to New York, while saxophonist Rahsaan Barber, returned to his hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

And it's in Nashville that Rahsaan and others formed a successful Latin jazz group, El Movimiento. The core of the group is comprised of a trio — Barber, Giovanni Rodriguez and Imer Santiago — which expands to a septet and beyond with the addition of percussionists.

I spoke with Rahsaan Friday night before El Movimiento's first set at The Jazz Kitchen.

NUVO: How did you come to bring Latin jazz into the heartland of country music?

Barber: It started out three years ago as an informal group of friends getting together. There was Rodriguez, who is Dominican, and Santiago, who is of Puerto Rican heritage. The music we played reflected our diversity. We started to focus on the Latin jazz side and that took the band into a local club where we played regular Tuesday gigs. And the crowd deeply responded to it.

NUVO: Did the response from audiences and critics to El Movimiento catch you off guard?

Barber: We worked really hard to try to create something we feel is both universal — and that satisfies some of the desires of the hardcore jazz crowd.

Even though Friday night was both El Movimiento's first gig at the Jazz Kitchen and their first show outside of Nashville, the septet was polished and musically tight. The band's rhythm section wailed away during the entire set, executing a variety of Latin polyrhythms.

The front line — comprised of Barber's sax, Santiago's trumpet, DaSilva's guitar and Joe Davidian's piano — was at the top its game, with players offering fiery improvisations against burning tempos. Trumpeter Pharez Whitted, in from the Windy City in advance of an upcoming release on Owl Studios, sat in on the last tune to offer some upper-register bop lines.

APA jazz fellowship

American Pianists Association president/CEO Joel Harrison has announced the five finalists who will compete for the 2011 Cole Porter Jazz Fellowship.

The finalists are Zach Lapidus, 23 Indianapolis; Aaron Diehl, 24 New York City; Emmet Cohen 20 Miami; Jeremy Siskind, 23 New York City and Glenn Zaleski, 22 New York City. Each finalist will perform a full set at the Jazz Kitchen during a five-month period, with the first set scheduled for September 2010.

Lapidus, who plays keyboard in Frank Glover's group Kilho (and as such can be heard on Glover's new album Abacus), is the first finalist for the Fellowship to hail from Indianapolis.

New big bands

Two locally-based big bands will make their debut next month.

Trumpeter Clifford Ratliff, a regular fixture at the Chatterbox with a quartet, will debut his group June 16 at The Jazz Kitchen. And the 16-piece Sugar Creek Big Band will perform their first gig June 13 at Easley Winery's "Grooving in the Garden." The Sugar Creek show will be broadcast live from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on my Sunday Morning Jazz Show on WICR.

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