Canto América

michael spiro wayne wallace canto america 1

Canto América

Artist: Michael Spiro /  Wayne Wallace featuring  La Orquesta Sinfonietta

Label: Patois        Format: CD /  MP3   Release Date: February 12, 2016

BLACK GROOVES  Original notes by Matthew Alley

Edition, adaptation and comments by Toni Basanta in Richmond, Vermont USA

Canto América is the newest release from longtime collaborators Michael Spiro (percussion) and Wayne Wallace (trombone), both accomplished musicians and faculty at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

As listeners familiar with these musicians’ reputations would rightfully expect, the Duo’s La Orquesta Sinfonietta is a well-rehearsed, spot on band that plays with both fire and nuance.

Formidable instrumentalists in their own right, Spiro and Wallace let their own monster chops take a backseat to the excellent arrangements that are this album’s chief currency. 

Perhaps the most compelling thing about Canto América is the ensemble’s fluidity between the conventional Latin Jazz ensemble (rhythm section, horns, and auxiliary percussion) with the less typical strings that comprise much of La Orquesta Sinfonietta  employed as an integral part of the ensemble rather than a saccharine sweetener.


Spiro and Wallace situate this stylistic move in what they call the “genre inclusiveness” of Cuban music noting in the voluminous 16-page liner notes that classical, jazz, and folkloric music are all equally understood and practiced by the island nation’s working musicians.  This group’s attempts at genre inclusiveness succeed spectacularly, largely due to the strong ensemble arrangements.


Fans of the standard repertoire will be pleased to see the inclusion of a Latin-flavored version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” and the standard “Afro Blue” which as the explanatory material included with each tune notes  was written by percussionist Ramon “Mongo” Santamaria, rather than by John Coltrane, who made it most famous.

The DUO’s original compositions and arrangements of traditional tunes are also excellent—-they draw heavily on Latin Jazz’s African musical characteristics, pulling heavily upon Yoruba imagery (“El Caldero de Ogun” and “Ochun’s Road”) and employing complicated polyrhythmic structures in their intricate original material “Hispaniola” and  “El Medico” the latter of which features a rhythmic trombone solo by Wallace “the Doctor” himself.

Overall, Canto América is a compelling exploration of neglected territory in Latin Jazz, informed by scholarship about the African diaspora.  This release isn’t all smarts, though–it’s also fun to listen and perhaps more importantly dance to.


Jazz: Latin / Chamber   Drivin’ the Charts!  #15 CMJ Jazz +  #21 CMJ World + #23 Jazz Week




in my  THE CUBAN BRIDGE radio show @ WWPV 92.5 FM  “The Mike”

Since 2007,  while becoming a DJ Host at WRUV 90.1 FM  the radio station at  the University of Vermont,  I began searching deep  in the MUSIC arranged and conceived by trombonist bandleader and San Francisco stalwart WAYNE WALLACE.

More than 10 albums beginning with THE RECKLESS SEARCH FOR BEAUTY (Patois 2007) till INTERCAMBIO (2015) and CANTO AMERICA in recent days have been reviewed, commented and spred through my radio shows here in Vermont and during my trips to Cuba.

WALLACE’s productions have been my music books about what happens in THE WEST COAST with  the indivisible marriage of Cuban Music, American Jazz, folklore, funky , songo and  timba   – elements which had a  wise and twisted highlight in THE NATURE OF THE BEAT (2008) putting together the  Music of Earth Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Ray Charles, Gerry Mulligan and others of not less importance.

THE NATURE OF THE BEAT was my battle horse in Hip-Hop lectures  as well as in my radio transmission at WRUV 90.1 FM in Burlington, Vermont.

Can enthusiastically remember how UVM’s  SALSA AND SWING SOCIETY danced the night away in THE HIP SIDE OF CUBA lecture at Champlain College in 2008  “con  una RUEDA DE CASINO” in a  choreography inspired by  Wayne ‘s version of  “UNCHAIN MY HEART” to which even Brother Ray sent his best wishes from heaven !.  

Many jaws went down to earth and tongues began wagging  – as some dance like this had never been seen before in the Burlington area. The new trend  of SALSA AND SWING SOCIETY  steps was fueled and propelled by a student that had come from Florida to study in Burlington extending the Cuban Connection and the genre inclusiveness.


Before the release of LATIN JAZZ JAZZ LATIN (2014), INTERCAMBIO and CANTO AMERICA  we were happy to extend Wallace’s vision with the voices of Jackie Ryan in INFINITY (2008), OFFSHORE ECHOES (2009) with singer Kristina; and  Kenny Washington in TO HEAR FROM THERE (2011)  seasoning and adding picante for good to anthems penned by  Ray Noble, The Gershwin Brothers, Bernice Petkere and Juan Tizol.

We always need voices in our music selection and Ryan, Washington, Alexa Weber,  Claytoven Richardson, Kristina,  Orlando Torriente and The Reverend were the perfect choices in the aforementioned productions.

And what to say about the mass choirs that accompanied most of these voices singing in English and Spanish  considering the multinational  environment and cosmopolitism of The San Francisco Bay Area ?.

I am always glad to receive the PATOIS PRODUCTIONS and if I make a Brazilian show more than once my closing pitcher is RHYTHM AND RHYME to extend the realms of Latin or AfroCuban beats to the amazonic giant power, fire and nuance.

Not forgetting THREE IN ONE (2000) and ECHOES IN BLUE (2001) released w Spirit Nectar and now impulsed  by PATOIS Records Enterprises – which added extra meaning to my cycle of POP CULTURE BLUES @ THE RADIATOR’s  WOMM-LP 105.FM – highlighting the importance of the BLUES IN AMERICAN CULTURE after receiving Michael Treni’s Suite in a treasure album composing, conducting and arranging for his New Jersey-based Big Band.



I won’t be serious and easy to trust if I quoted who added the paternity of AFROBLUE to respected American Jazz idol and icon JOHN COLTRANE. But how many times Mr. Coltrane himself played AFROBLUE “LIVE” in relation to the hundreds of versions that it has under the name of Ramon “Mongo” Santamaria as original composer and even more,  when it grew so popular by singers after Oscar Brown Jr., wrote lyrics for it ?.

Two of my favorite girls DEE DEE BRIDGEWEATER and CYNTHIA FELTON have recorded  in their immaculate voices convincing versions of AFROBLUE.

How  much I had enjoyed to know that at least once Mongo and Coltrane joined forces playing and /or recording AFROBLUE ?

Maybe some day RAVI COLTRANE and his Cuban friends would consider a  joint flight  to gift the world a new version of AFROBLUE. Check Ravi w drummer Julio Barreto Quartet in “Iyawo”  and you’ll know  how high-spirited tunes they made. Coltrane’s son has also made HAVANA to the JAZZ PLAZA INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL.

Something similar happens to MARIO BAUZA’s TANGA that many Jazz players including renowned Cuban soloists – as  Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval  and Montreal idol Vic Vogel avec Le Jazz Big Band  have recorded volcanic versions of TANGA  giving the compositional credits to DIZZY GILLESPIE.

An immediate revision of credits becomes necessary. Examples, could be plenty, another one is MAMBO A LO KENTON a composition of Cuban conductor and educator ARMANDO ROMEU  dedicated to band leader STAN KENTON. It was  successfully recorded by Paquito D’Rivera here in the US  and giving credits to the real composer.

Thanks to Wayne and Michael for considering Mongo’s legacy.

Congrats to Michael Spiro, Wayne Wallace and La Orquesta Sinfonietta,  to  West Coast  Jazz and Indiana University for giving birth and home to CANTO AMERICA while weaving a hypnotic brand of traditional magic  converting  STARDUST into a proudly danceable and jazzy DANZON.

I wish I could take a copy  to MATANZAS the craddle of Cuba’s National Dance – a style created by Miguel Failde  with LAS ALTURAS DE SYMPSON  in the XIXth  century and also to Miami where Uruguayan violin virtuoso Federico Britos leads his band DANZON BY SIX  to leave their audiences in a state of toe-tapping excitement.

Already in my radio show THE CUBAN BRIDGE  two weeks ago,  I could accomplish the excitement when my fan #1  DAVID CANTRELL from his home in Tucson, Arizona texted me thru my cell phone saying :  What a beautiful Danzon ?  

The selection included GREGOR HUEBNER’S  “El Violin Latino” Vol 2  bringing another sound collage of Latin New York  helping to bridge  a vibe over perfection for grateful ears.

With very best wishes for all,

Toni Basanta

DJ Host of The Cuban Bridge on the radio and television coming to  you from Vermont


WWPV 92.5 FM  “The Mike”  SUNDAYS 12 – 3 p.m.

THE CUBAN BRIDGE ON TV (54 shows since 2012)

MMCTV Channel 15 in Richmond, Vermont

To watch from your computer





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