It was the only introduction needed for Nashville’s only Latin jazz band, El Movimiento. Taking the Nashville Jazz Workshop stage Saturday night to a full house, it was clear that no one would be on their cell phone during this performance anyway. Founding members Giovanni Rodriguez and Imer Santiago (third founding member Rahsaan Barber was out of town) introduced the first piece, “Crossroads,” amid shouts and whistles.
With Santiago on trumpet and Rodriguez on percussion, the band was filled out with James DaSilva on guitar, Paul Horton on piano, John Estes on bass, Wendell Henry on drumset, and filling in for Barber was Court Martin, a gem of a saxophonist who has apparently been hiding in a middle school band room in Columbia, Tennessee. Martin had big shoes to fill, but his smooth, melodic solos were a perfect complement, and his precision in execution was everything one expects from the members of El Movimiento.
The standout piece in the first set was definitively the Barber originial, “La Mordida,” a sensual, ballad tango that featured DaSilva’s best solo of the night. The slower pace allowed him to truly focus on his excellent melodic ideas and develop them fully. The second set began with what seems to be El Movimiento’s theme song, the crowd-pleasing “Clave Fanfare.” However, this was an abbreviated version that led straight into a newer piece, “Reminiscence,” from Santiago’s recently released solo album. This relaxed piece grew in intensity with each solo, culminating in impressive and energetic percussion and drum solos from Rodriguez and Henry.
Now, I must confess that I have been a fan of El Movimiento for several years. I used to attend their weekly performances at the Frothy Monkey in 2008-2009 when the band had just formed. They were amazing performers back then, but the El Movimiento that played on Saturday was a more polished, more mature El Movimiento. It’s clear that they have come into their own stylistically and compositionally. They know exactly who they are and what they are trying to do: bring Latin jazz into focus in the Nashville jazz community. And, from the looks of things Saturday night, they are most definitely succeeding.