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Review: The Dominican Republic Jazz Festival

Historically small jazz scene finds Its way, with some growing pains

Berklee Global Jazz Institute XIX at the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, Nov. 2015
David Sánchez, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival Nov. 2015
David Sánchez plays in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival Nov. 2015
John Patitucci with tenor saxophonist John Ellis and drummer Nate Smith, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival Nov. 2015
John Patitucci, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival Nov. 2015
Josean Jacobo, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival Nov. 2015
Pedrito Martinez (l.) and David Sánchez (r.), Dominican Republic Jazz Festival Nov. 2015

Nineteen years into its existence, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival has made some real headway in carving out a niche for jazz music-in a country that has little historic association with it, even in the realm of Latin jazz. The DR is the land of merengue, a 2/4 folk form that was elevated to the national music under the mid-20th-century reign of dictator Rafael Trujillo, a part of his brutal legacy that the country has retained. If jazz fans can name any Dominican jazz musician, it’s Santo Domingo native Michel Camilo, a pianist who now resides in New York.

But producer Lorenzo Sancassani has tapped into a real audience for the music. His festival, held November 4-8 this year, takes place not in the big city of Santo Domingo but in the north-coast resort province of Puerto Plata. The resorts cater primarily to the North American and European visitors who are temporarily fleeing the mainland winter for the Caribbean. But it’s internal tourism that fills the seats, between 10-20,000 of them each year-ninety percent of them by Dominicans.

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