5 September 2007: The New York(Cuban) jazz combo's first performance in Italy was a tribute to Tito Puente. Cool evening for an outdoor show in Piazza della Passera in the ultra-hip Oltrarno neighborhood, the traditional artisan's quarter turned artist zone across the river from the more touristy side of the city center.
Big crowd, attentive and appreciative as Ray (on congas and timbales) led the group through several Puente numbers (no mambos though!?!) and a couple of originals. Ranged from a smooth lounge sound through a rocking almost be-bop jazz sound with an Oye Como Va finale followed by a mellow encore. Mike Freeman on the vibes stole the show until Ray and drummer Bill Elder revved up the crowd with a drums/percussion breakdown while the rest of the band took a break. Bit of a language barrier as Ray tried to transform his self-proclaimed Spanglish into Italiano so he resorted to hand signals to get the crowd clapping along in time to his rhythmic breaks. Solid ninety minute set, lots of fun, great vibe with a happy crowd.
One of the things I like most about living in Florence is the free concerts that run every night of the week all summer in the many little squares throughout the city. Can't be beat.