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Smithsonian Tours With Latin Jazz

Jazz occupies a relatively small niche in the larger music world, and within that pocket, Latin jazz represents perhaps an even smaller community. This fall, a new exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service looks to change that by bringing Latin jazz to the attention of music fans across the country.

Displaying the treasures and spirit that Latin jazz has to offer, “Latin Jazz: La Combinacion Perfecta” will open to the public at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 17 and will run until Jan. 18, 2003. The exhibit will then embark on a four-year, 12-city tour of the U.S. and the Caribbean. The exhibition, which is a bilingual, multimedia experience, will focus on the cultural exchange that resulted in the creation of Latin jazz. The program was put together by an 18-member advisory committee led by Raul Fernandez, a professor of social sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and included music scholars and historians, musicians, record executives, producers and radio broadcasters.

The exhibit consists of 60 floor panels on 10 freestanding kiosks, wall panels and banners, artifact cases with musical instruments and documents, two audio units, two video units and small percussion instruments for a hands-on room. “La Combinacion Perfecta” traces the roots, growth and spread of Latin jazz by introducing its most important musicians, examining the central cities and venues where the music took hold and demonstrating the importance of dance and rhythm in the genre.

Featured instruments include a Dizzy Gillespie trumpet, a 5-key Cubanwood flute played by Danilo Lozano, a shakere made by the Bando Brothers, timbales played by Tito Puente (pictured) and a Pancho Sanchez conga drum. Educational materials will include an interactive educational Web site, a curriculum guide for educators, an instructional video on small percussion instruments, a companion book published by Chronicle and a CD produced by Smithsonian Folkways recordings. Also featured will be vintage film footage, oral history interviews, photographs, musical scores, programs and album covers.

Smithsonian secretary Lawrence Small says of Latin jazz, “Listen to it, and you can’t help but move to the music. Read about it, and it opens doors to our diverse past. Latin jazz is American and world music. We’re delighted to bring this long overdue exhibition to the public.”

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Originally Published